#ScreenplaySunday: VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA by Woody Allen

This week’s #ScreenplaySunday is written and directed by the infamously talented Woody Allen; the film won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical, and won one of my favourite actresses, Penelope Cruz, her Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. If you read this blog, I’m sure you know all about Woody Allen, but just in case, he has 76 writing credits (3 Oscars for Best Writing), 53 directing credits (1 Oscar for Best Director), and 50 acting credits — talk about a career right!? It’s a given that I wanted to feature Woody Allen on the blog, and I chose ‘Vicky Cristina Barcelona’, although not his most critically appraised (unlike Midnight in Paris for example), because the narration style is extremely novelistic, which was not only innovative for film, but also extremely hard to pull off, yet anyone who saw this film would tell you it is pulled off brilliantly. Below are my thoughts on the screenplay. Thank you for reading and I am looking forward to seeing you here for the next #ScreenplaySunday! 🙂

STRENGTHS:

Narration – Narration in film is touchy for me. The downsides include the documentary feel, the curiosity of who is the narrator, and keeping us outside of the story as opposed to actually in it. However I classify it as a strength because I appreciated it in this film and screenplay. Specifically because it kept the dialogue to a minimum, the characters only speak when they are extremely compelled to, and this kept the story very realistic while still keeping the audience very informed. That being said, I liked things like “…a house he acquired from a fellow painter” because it informs us without the cheesy dialogue. However, I do not like “…and she handled herself quite well” because this can be shown through film. 

Detail – my favourite strength of all is the details! Allen actually cuts off dialogue to describe specific shots he wants to capture. He even describes characters that are only in the background. This not only made it a very fun script to read (it felt novelistic), but it also transforms this screenplay into a blueprint, so any film maker would be able to replicate it through their own lens, but still in its full integrity.

Phone conversations – I have never seen phone conversations done so well. The interaction between Vicky and her fiancĂ© Doug evolved throughout the sceeenplay and its obvious only through the dialogue. This was mastery. 

WEAKNESSES:

Plot doesn’t matter – This story is so character driven that he plot does not matter. If these same characters were anywhere, the story would still occur. Now that is a strength when it comes to character development and the writing of good stories. However I see it as a weakness in this story only because many scenes that serve the plot are completely irrelevant. Now he only has a few, which is much better than most films made today, however if I am critiquing fairly I have to say that some need to be cut. 

Subtitles – in a perfect world, everyone watching this film is bilingual in English and Spanish. Ya right. So I get why Subtitles are needed. However, if we the viewer are really to be in the shoes of Vicky and Cristina, I think the more bold choice would have been to not use subtitles at all. Perhaps the only time I would permit subtitles are when Vicky and Cristina are out of the room and scene. This only happens once between Juan Antonio and Maria Elena, and that was  the only time I found the subtitles appropriate. 

Characters do not change from beginning to end – I trust that this was an artistic choice for Allen, but as an actress the first thing I look at is how my character changes from beginning to the end of the screenplay. After all, STORY is how the human heart changes. However as an actress I might rise to the occasion of playing a character that by plot circumstances doesn’t change, just so that it can be up to me to make sure the audience knows my character has changed. In the movie the actresses do a wonderful job showing the journey they’ve been on, however in the screenplay there is no change.

MY FAVOURITE SCENE:

My favourite scene is when Cristina, Juan Antonio, and Maria Elena sit down in the park for a picnic. The dynamics are amazing, and the dialogue allows for so much acting and more importantly, reacting, between the characters. I especially love how open and honest of a person Maria Elena is. 

 CRISTINA
 You went through my luggage?
 MARIA ELENA
 Of course I went through your
luggage. First night I was in the
house, I didn’t trust you. I didn’t
believe you were who you said you
were. I wanted to know who was
really sharing the bed of my ex-
husband.

CRISTINA

What?!
 MARIA ELENA
 Who knew what I would find there?

How could I be sure you were not
going to hurt me? After all, I had
thoughts of killing you.

Maria Elena starts to massage Juan Antonio’s neck again.

OVERALL:

Overall I found this to be a very intriguing story, and I identified with the characters very much. There are a few things that I learned only through the screenplay and not in the film. For one, that no one lies in the film, except for Vicky, and what’s worse is that she lies to herself. Second, that each character is constantly describing the other, and with this we learn more about the person talking than who they’re talking about. Third, I noticed that in the end Vicky and Cristina really want just a piece of each other: they are both such extreme legs that as one person they would be a perfectly balanced human being. And lastly that the film is about just that, balance, dynamics between the people we are surrounded with, and how circumstances change those dynamics, sometimes drastically! 

Thanks for reading! xo

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