FBMR - Barcelona
Film-Buff Movie Reviews


BARCELONA (1994) ****

The world has a love/hate relationship with the United States of America. We all seem to be very two-faced in our attitudes regarding America. On the one hand, we love American products (clothing, footwear Ö never mind that most of these arenít made in America anymore). We love the technological advances that have come out of America over the centuries. We love their entertainment industry (film, television, music, literature). We apparently love their food (what countries donít have a McDonalds?). And yet, Americans are often looked unkindly upon as being loud, obnoxious, overly patriotic, to name a few. And generally speaking, this is true, and maybe itís our fault for ďencouragingĒ them. But every country has its share of schnooks. Itís only because America is often in the spotlight, misunderstood, under the microscope, or is the ďant-farmĒ for the rest of the world that it gets a bad reputation. This is one of the topics of discussion in this witty comedy by Whit Stillman.

Iím a big Whit Stillman fan. I like his writing style. Even though some of the dialogue may seem or even sound contrived at times, he manages to make it work. Itís not always everyday dialogue, and for an actor, may not always be the easiest to deliver. But somehow the fact that it is sometimes contrived makes the scene that much funnier. And in my opinion, this is a very funny movie. Itís my kind of snappy dialogue, witty banter, and put-down humour, with a health dash of quirkiness.

Ted (Taylor Nichols) is an American ex-pat working in sales for an American company in Barcelona during the last decade of the Cold War. His ďonlyĒ cousin, naval officer, Fred (Chris Eigeman), drops in on him as an advance liaison for an upcoming fleet visit. Like siblings, they are constantly at each other, bickering, discussing, and sometimes about the most mundane things. Itís when they talk about politics, and women and relationships that their repartee gets really interesting and funny. What I think makes it even funnier is that the role of the stereotypical yuppie gets reversed and becomes the hero, where so often they are the nasty, uppity villains in film (not that Ted and Fred arenít uppity, they are, but in a charming sort of way).

They quickly become involved with the local ďcoolĒ Trade Fair girls. Ted has vowed to only date plain or rather homely girls because he is so often distracted by the idea of physical beauty rather than trying to see the soul. Fred is a charmer and works his wonders with Marta (Mira Sorvino), the first girl he meets. They go to jazz concerts, they go to parties, they go to clubs and listen to disco.

This simply sets the scene, there is much more to the film that just this, but I donít want to spoil it. I loved this movie from the first time I saw it. Thereís not too much action, thereís lots and lots of talking, itís all rather quirky, but not terribly difficult to follow either. A real little gem!