Barcelona Review

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Ted, a stuffy white guy from Illinois working in sales for the Barcelona office of a US corporation, is paid an unexpected visit by his somewhat less stuffy cousin Fred, who is an officer in the US Navy


Whit Stillman’s debut film Metropolitan showed such a distinctive vision and possessed such an offbeat feel that it seemed highly probable that he might only have one film in him. However, not only does this second effort carry over a couple of that film’s stars and much of its unique tone, it progresses from the achievements of his first by being more than just a re-run of the WASPish riffs that worked so well first time around.
Set in the eponymous city in the “last decade of the Cold War”, Ted (Nichols), sales manager at an American Corporation, searches for romantic and spiritual fulfilment, hung up on the idea that he should date only homely girls because beauty is an illusion. His cousin, the shallower Fred (Eigemen), is a junior Naval officer with a vague diplomatic function, bristling at the anti-Americanism of many Spaniards and only interested in beautiful girls. Ted’s philosophy is severely strained when he falls in love with Monserrat (Bergen), an exceptionally beautiful girl. Romantic and political complications ensue, and an underlying friction between the cousins, which has its roots in childhood, surfaces.
Stillman waxes romantic as he chronicles the foibles and lifestyles of well-meaning, well-born, slightly intellectual, wealthy folk. And while there is something of Woody Allen in the endless philosophising over matters of the heart, Stillman is a more genuinely passionate filmmaker. With wry performances from all concerned, including a baffling gaggle of Spanish girls deliciously showing-up the absurdities of the Yanks, this may not be quite as fresh as Metropolitan, but it’s a thoroughly charming, subtly serious and sneakily captivating movie.

Brilliant debut movie