Many fans of 90’s art house phenom, Whit Stillman, dismiss the second of the writer-director’a “young-yuppies” trilogy as uneven.
Indeed, METEROPOLITAN (1990) and THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO (1998) are both brilliantly written and acted films, but “middle-child” BARCELONA is more heartfelt.
The story follows the arrival of Naval officer Fred (Chris Eigeman) who has come to Barcelona to do “advance work” for the impending arrival of the American fleet. Fred crashes at his corporate salesman cousin Ted’s (Taylor Nichols) flat.
Nichols and Eigeman are perfect voices to Stillman’s muse. Here, on the heels of breakout METROPOLITAN, they prove to be valid big-screen buddy-comics…in the tradition of Woody Allen and Tony Roberts in ANNIE HALL (1977).
Whereas Stillman’s other films tread softly (though purposefully) through the pleasant terrain of comedy of manners, in BARCELONA, things eventually get physical, dangerous. What begins as a witty, cross-cultural dialogue becomes far more aggressive…then violent.
BARCELONA is about the bright possibilities of being smart, attractive, and actively engaged with a fascinating foreign culture, growing grayer, wiser. It is certainly a funny and entertaining film, yet its brilliance lies in a surprise punch landed squarely on the eye. And the inevitable sorting out that follows.