New on DVD: Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Woody Allen has made a career of exploring relationships in film. Here, he once again delves into the world of adultery, overwhelming (and underwhelming) passion, and the threesome.

Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) are best friends but their views on love are in complete opposition. Vicky is engaged to a man who is stable and trusting; Cristina engages in whirlwind relationships looking for something she has yet to find. Shortly after the pair's arrival for a summer in Spain, Cristina catches the eye of a handsome Spanish artist (Javier Bardem). Within hours, the three are on his plane with the predisposition he will sleep with one or both of them before the weekend is over. What follows is several torrid love affairs, both from afar and up-close.

This is not one of Allen's best works but as is the norm, he gets wonderful actors to turn in magnificent performances. As so much of an Allen picture is based in dialogue, the cast must be very capable speakers. And this time it's not only the cast leading the story with their words, but also a narrator. The voice is entirely expository; it takes the story from one scene to the next, revealing inner emotions and thoughts along the way. The experience is much like watching a stage play without the stage.

Bardem's rapport with Penelope Cruz, who portrays his ex-wife, is incredibly authentic. The extreme passions they express for one another are fiery. And although very little of what we see is physical, it dwarfs the connection Juan Antonio has with Cristina. Johansson is credible but her performance is not award- worthy despite the nominations. Likewise, Hall’s fear, anxiety and desire are very believable.

The Spanish architecture, coast and countryside are their own characters, often stealing the audience's attention. If you find yourself not loving Vicky or Cristina, you will surely fall in love with Barcelona.

As is also the usual with an Allen release, there are no DVD bonus features to review.

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