Sunday, September 25, 2011

Underrated Movie #133: Barcelona

Title: Barcelona
Director: Whit Stillman
Writer: Whit Stillman
Stars: Taylor Nichols, Chris Eigeman, Tushka Bergen, Mira Sorvino

The Story: A neurotic American salesman stationed in Barcelona in the ‘80s has to play host to his obnoxious Navy attaché cousin. They chase girls, bicker about their differences, and worry about the growing anti-American sentiment around them.

How it Came to be Underrated: All three of Stillman’s movies were cult hits at the time, but his strange disappearance from the scene has caused them all to fade from memory. He’s finally coming out with his first movie in 13 years this fall, so it’s a great time to rediscover his work.

Why It’s Great:

  1. The only acceptable form of movie voiceover is if it contradicts what we see onscreen. This movie justifies its voiceover immediately: Nichols tells us, “I was furious but tried not to show it,” just before we see him greet Eigeman with a terse growl of, “You could have called.” Clearly not as good at hiding his emotions as he imagines.
  2. This movie has more great one-liners per square inch than most ‘80s ants-in-you-pants comedies, helped by Eigeman’s blandly deadpan delivery: “You can’t say that Americans are more violent than other people, we’re just better shots.” Or: “You are a far weirder person than someone into S and M. At least they have a tradition.”
  3. Eigeman’s umbrage about Spanish resentment of America provides a lot of subtle humor. His fellow Americans beg him not wear his Navy blues, but he keeps indignantly saying “Men wearing this uniform died ridding Europe of fascism,” blithely oblivious to the fact that the U.S. cheerfully supported the fascist dictatorship in Spain throughout WW2 and far beyond.
  4. Eigeman and Nichols were both veterans of the ensemble in Stillman’s Metropolitan, and they both excelled upon graduating to these lead roles. There’s one silent scene of Eigeman figuring out a plot point from earlier in the movie and we read the whole thing on his face through the most subtle of facial gestures. Both have shown up in movies sporadically ever since, but never got much traction.

If You Like This, You Should Also Check Out: Eigemann was also great in Noah Baumbach’s Kicking and Screaming. Taylor was good as a screwed-over investor in Boiler Room.

How Available Is It?: It’s on DVD and Watch Instantly.

Today’s Post Was Brought To You By: How Can You Not Love This Kid and His Big-as-Life Hang-Ups?


Steve Bird said...

I believe you mean "Metropolitan," one of Amy's favorite movies.

And I never noticed that the star of Barcelona played that character in Boiler Room (another underrated movie, in my opinion)!

Matt Bird said...

Ha! I certainly did (I had written Metropolis). I had also meant to hot-link it, because it was one of my first underrated movies.