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USA 1994
Directed by
Whit Stillman
102 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3.5 stars


Although stylistically close to his first film, Metropolitan, Whit Stillman's follow-up is in every sense a considerable step forward.  Whilst there’s still the same bias towards breast-beating dialogue (and one again  assumes a biographical source) , it is much wittier than the first film, there’s more story and the clearly larger budget allows for more adventurous settings, notably that of Barcelona itself,

Chris Eigeman and Taylor Nichols are re-united from the earlier film and play much the same characters, here imagined as Fred (Eigeman), a naval officer, who has arrived in Barcelona with the American Sixth Fleet and descends on his cousin, Ted (Nichols) a salesman for a Chicago-based multinational.  Set, as an opening title tells us, during "the last decade of the Cold War" anti-American feeling is running high amongst the Catalans and this provides one main strand of the narrative. The other is the lad’s relationship to the self-assured modern Catalan woman, notably Montserrat (Tushka Bergen) and Marta (Mira Sorvino).

As with Stillman's debut film, Barcelona is very much about the spoken word and much less about the performances.  The actors really have too much to say to be concerned with anything else, only Mira Sorvino’s  none-too-bright party girl managing to be something other than her lines (Sorvino would win an Academy Award the following year for playing a ditzy call-girl in Woody Allen’s Mighty Aphrodite). Having said that Nichols is particularly well suited (literally so in his ample wide-shouldered 80s suits) to play a typical young Mid-West white collar apparatchik with, in one of Stillman's most deft touches, a worldview grounded in Dale Carnegie and other fundamental texts of the American Way) and, as in the earlier film, Eigeman parries and needles that buttoned-down sensibility with understated enjoyment. The two are the cornerstone of Stillman’s film.

Of course, for some the endless banter will not suit but if you enjoy comedy that is grounded in dry wit and keen intelligence this should please.




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