By Karina Longworth
Not to make a career out of Woody Allen apologia, but I thought it was interesting to see critics slam “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” for what they perceive as Woody Allen’s misogyny when, for the first time as far as I can tell, he’s cast a woman in the typical Woody Allen role, which you’d think would be a step-up from the typical Woody Allen woman-as-love-interest paradigm.
Not that there was anything wrong with that. A couple of years ago, I wrote a thing about how writing realistic female roles has never been on Woody Allen’s agenda–all of the women in Woody Allen films are essentially distorted by the way men (usually Allen themselves) see them. I haven’t seen *every* Woody Allen film, but I’ve seen a lot of them, and I’m fairly familiar with the ones I haven’t seen. And while Allen has made a habit, in recent years, of casting a male actor in an archtypical “Woody Allen role” (Will Farrell in “Melinda and Melinda,” for instance), I don’t *think* he’s ever previously asked an actress to take on the role of the square, insecure neurotic who babbles their way into a seduction in the same way Hall does in “Vicky Cristina.”
As I noted in my review, Allen mocks Rebecca Hall’s character for allowing a single night of passion to upend her logical worldview, but he does so with a kind of “been there” sympathy and, ultimately, an empathy for her disappointments. At the same time, even if Allen can put a female actress in his place and essentially side with her the typical Woody Allen character is pretty self-loathing and, though endearing, often ultimately ulikeable.
So now this is a conundrum: is it more misogynistic for Woody Allen to depict women as untouchable projection screens for his own fantasies and impressions, or for him to (finally) invite women into his realm of self-hating, extremely flawed protagonists? Help, I’m confused!