Woody Allen goes all Henry James on us in this Barcelona-based pic about two American gal-pals (Scarlett Johansson & Rebecca Hall) who find themselves emotionally unprepared for the cultural & sexual mores of a summer’s holiday in Europe. They seem unlikely friends, one is solid, steady, engaged to be married, the other a free-spirit with her bags packed for adventure; but they both find the waters in Europe unexpectedly deep and both return sadder, if hardly wiser; unmarked, yet changed forever. It’s a classic set-up, but Allen treats it all like a travelogue, a guided tour of places of interest, unique settings, characterizations & plot complications. Even the music is a collection of Greatest Spanish Guitar Hits. Fortunately, Penelope Cruz shows up halfway thru as a wild card, the manic ‘ex’ of the girls sequential lover, Javier Bardem. (He’s apparently the sole erection in all Espana. ¡Ola!) The film is a treat to look at though. Not only for the ripe locations, but for the fluid compositions that help set the pace & locate dramatic focus. Alas, Allen seems to have lost interest in Johansson while Rebecca Hall sounds eerily like Mia Farrow. (We’re used to other actors taking on Woody’s persona in his films, but Mia?)
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The great Ernst Lubitsch thought that Gary Cooper & Greta Garbo were one & the same person. "Have you ever seen them together?’ he’d ask. It wasn’t that they looked so much alike, but that their faces ‘took’ light in a manner no one else did at the time. These days, he might say it about Javier Bardem & Cate Blanchett. I mean, have you ever seen them together?