My neighborhood movie theater has been screening Penélope Cruz vehicles on two of its three screens, and I've finally seen them both. (Just in time, too: they're both going bye-bye tomorrow.) In Elegy, adapted from Philip Roth's novel The Dying Animal, Cruz plays a 24-year-old graduate student with a mysteriously thick accent for a character who supposedly emigrated from Cuba when she was 11. In Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona, she's a pistol-packing Spanish painter with beeg crazy hair and beeg crazy temper. Stereotype? ¿Qué es ésto?
Several items of note:
1. Elegy's director, Isabel Coixet, is from Barcelona. Elegy is her first movie set in New York.
2. Woody Allen is from New York. Vicky Cristina Barcelona is his first movie set in Barcelona.
3. Patricia Clarkson plays supporting roles in both movies.
4. Each movie has an erotically charged scene set in a photographic darkroom, apparently for no other reason than to bathe Ms. Cruz in red light. I mean, who the heck uses a darkroom nowadays? (Both movies are set in the present day.)
What are the odds?
P.S. You want reviews? Elegy is watchable; it stars Ben Kingsley, who's never less than interesting, and Dennis Hopper has a nice turn. (Don't blink or you'll miss Debbie Harry—yep, from Blondie—looking sad and unglamorous in a small part toward the end.) As for VCB, what a waste of celluloid and Gaudí architecture. I haven't liked anything of Allen's since Mighty Aphrodite; my favorite of his films remains the underseen Sweet and Lowdown, with Sean Penn. (My name is Nancy, and I'm not an AnnieHallic.) I think I'll just turn the microphone over to GQ film critic Tom Carson, who retitled the movie Vicky Cristina Barcalounger and whose review is titled "A Woody for Scarlett"—as in Johansson, one of the stars (the blonde one):
What you may or may not share is [Allen's] ardor for Johansson, whose performance has left some luckless inflatable toy collecting unemployment. Fond as I was of her in Lost in Translation and Ghost World, the sad truth is I’ve dealt with telemarketers who had better command of their vocal moues and overall dramatic presence. Yet that’s clearly just why Woody’s smitten with her. He doesn’t treat her as a professional, and by now only the IRS would beg to differ.