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Vicky Cristina Barcelona is a 2008 drama romantic film written and directed by Woody Allen. The film stars Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall.

The plot centers on two American women, Vicky and Cristina, spending a summer in Barcelonamarker, where they meet an artist who is attracted to both of them while still enamored of his mentally and emotionally unstable ex-wife María Elena. The film was shot in Avilésmarker, Barcelonamarker, and Oviedomarker, and was Allen's fourth consecutive film shot outside of the United Statesmarker.

The film premiered at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, then received a rolling worldwide general release that started in August 2008 in the U.S., and continued in various countries each month until the June 2009 release in Japanmarker.


Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) visit Barcelonamarker for the summer, staying with Vicky's distant relative Judy (Patricia Clarkson) and her husband, Mark Nash (Kevin Dunn). A narrator (voice of Christopher Evan Welch), present throughout the film, describes the two friends: Vicky is practical and traditional in her approach to love and commitment, and is engaged to the reliable but unromantic Doug (Chris Messina). She is in Barcelona getting her masters in "Catalan identity". Cristina, on the other hand, is a nonconformist, spontaneous but unsure of what she wants from life or love.

At an art exhibition, they notice the artist Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem). Cristina is impressed with him at first sight, and grows intrigued when Judy and Mark tell the girls that the artist has suffered a publicly violent relationship with his ex-wife. Later that night, the girls notice him across the room in a restaurant. He approaches their table and quickly invites them to join him for the weekend in the city of Oviedomarker, in the small plane he flies himself, for sight-seeing, drinking wine, and (Juan Antonio hopes) sex. Cristina accepts the brazen offer almost at once, but Vicky refuses, strongly resenting his assumption that the two of them would agree to go to bed with him after less than five minutes' acquaintance. She eventually decides to accompany her friend anyway, mainly as she says "to protect Cristina from making a big mistake".

At the end of their first day, Juan Antonio asks both women to come to his room. Vicky refuses, but Cristina agrees, though she falls ill before any love making happens. For the remainder of the weekend, Vicky and Juan Antonio are forced together while Cristina recuperates. During their trip, he tells her about his ex-wife and his tumultuous relationship with her and takes her to visit his father, an old poet, making Vicky change her negative first impression of him. After more wine over dinner and an intimate guitar concert, Vicky succumbs to his charms and sleeps with him.

The next day, Juan takes them back to Barcelona. Vicky, feeling guilty, does not mention the incident to Cristina, and the two begin to grow apart, Vicky throwing herself into her Catalan culture studies and Cristina taking up photography. Soon Juan Antonio is dating Cristina. Meanwhile, Doug unexpectedly telephones Vicky, suggesting that they get married in Spain. She agrees, with unspoken misgivings, and he flies to meet her. Cristina and Juan Antonio grow closer and move in together.

One night, Cristina and Juan Antonio are woken up by a call, learning that Juan's ex-wife María Elena (Penélope Cruz) has attempted to kill herself. Since she has nowhere else to go, Juan Antonio brings her home, and she moves into the guest room. Though initially María Elena distrusts Cristina, she soon grows fond of her and her photography.

Cristina soon realizes that the ex-spouses are still in love, and María Elena confides that their relationship was always loving but unstable because they were missing something, a mystery element neither of them figured out. María Elena now suggests that the missing link is in fact, Cristina, and the three become polyamorous. Cristina discloses the events of her life to Vicky, who appears secretly jealous of her friend's relationship with Juan Antonio, and to Doug, who disapproves.

As the summer winds to a close, Vicky realizes that she is unsatisfied in her married life, and is still attracted to Juan Antonio. She learns that Judy is also unhappy in her marriage, and confides in the older woman. Judy, who sees Vicky as a younger version of herself, decides to bring Juan Antonio and Vicky together. Meanwhile, Cristina becomes restless and announces she is leaving Juan Antonio and María Elena. Maria does not take the news well and breaks down. Cristina spends the last weeks of the summer in France. With their "missing link" gone, Juan Antonio and María Elena break up again.

Attempting to pair up Juan Antonio and Vicky, Judy arranges for them both to be at a party. Juan Antonio begs Vicky to meet him the next day. After lying to Doug, Vicky, against her better judgment, goes to Juan's home for lunch, after which Juan tries to seduce her again. She is at the point of consenting when María Elena bursts in with a gun and begins firing wildly. As Juan Antonio tries to take the gun from his sobbing wife, Maria Elena accidentally shoots Vicky in the hand, wounding her slightly. Vicky shouts at both of them, saying they are insane and she could never live like this, and leaves.

When Cristina returns from France, Vicky confesses the entire story to her. Cristina says she never knew that Vicky felt that way about Juan Antonio, and she (Cristina) wishes she could have helped her. Doug never learns what truly happened. As the three Americans return home, Vicky goes back to her married life and Cristina remains where she started, knowing only what she doesn't want. Since Vicky chooses to live her rigidly planned (a "perfect") life, and Cristina chooses to live without making predetermined plans, they end where they began.


Proposed titles for the film were Midnight in Barcelona and Xantarella.

In 2007, controversy arose in Cataloniamarker because the film was partially funded with public money: Barcelona's city hall provided one million euros and the Generalitat de Catalunya (Government of Catalonia) half a million, or ten percent of the film's budget.

This is the third time Johansson and Allen have worked together, following Match Point and Scoop. This film also marks the second time Johansson and Hall worked together, the first time being in The Prestige.

The movie featured several paintings by the Catalan artist, Agustí Puig. Puig was even commissioned to create a painting for the movie, the result being, La Protectora II, though it was not used on set.


The Spanish actor Joan Pera, who dubbed Allen's voice in his previous films, makes a cameo appearance.

Critical reception

As of July 2009, the film has grossed $93,087,565 worldwide; in relation to its $20 million budget, it is one of Allen's most profitable films.


Vicky Cristina Barcelona garnered the best reviews Allen had received since his Oscar-nominated 2005 film Match Point, earning a rating of 82% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Scott Tobias wrote in the Onion AV Club that it was "a witty and ambiguous movie that's simultaneously intoxicating and suffused with sadness and doubt". Richard Roeper suggested that Cruz should receive an Academy Award nomination for her role. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle praised the film as "the work of a confident and mature artist", referring to Allen. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote "Although Vicky Cristina trips along winningly, carried by the beauty of its locations and stars — and all the gauzy romanticism those enchanted places and people imply — it reverberates with implacable melancholy, a sense of loss." Richard Corliss ended his review of the film with "The movie has neither the sardonic heft of Max Ophüls's La Ronde nor the emotional precision of Ingmar Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night, two films that also dance the change-partners gavotte. But Vicky Cristina Barcelona is so engaging so much of the time that it feels like a modest rejuvenation: evidence that a summer in Spain can do wonders for a writer-director who may not have outlived his prime." Ian Freer of Empire gave the film 4/5, and wrote "within Allen's recent output, Vicky Cristina is a highlight. See it for beautiful locales, an ambivalent look at human relationships and a clutch of great performances, especially from Cruz."

Not all the reviews were positive. James Berardinelli, writing for ReelViews, said "[Allen] has slipped back into the sinkhole of mediocrity". Kenneth Turan wrote "that despite promising elements, Vicky Cristina Barcelona is too intent on being taken seriously to be more than mildly diverting"; he says the film's narration becomes tedious, while "Bardem's performance is so good it tends to mask how lacking much of what surrounds it is", and the film overall is "indifferently directed."

Top ten lists

The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2008.

Awards and nominations

The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Woody Allen won his first Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay and was nominated for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Screenplay.

Penélope Cruz won the Best Supporting Actress award from numerous organizations including: the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the Independent Spirit Awards, the Boston Society of Film Critics, the Goya Awards, the Kansas City Film Critics Circle, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, the National Board of Review, the New York Film Critics Circle,and the Southeastern Film Critics Association.


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