Set To Rights: The Movie, “Barcelona”

Cover of "Barcelona"
Cover of Barcelona

Staying temporarily in Barcelona, Spain are Fred (Chris Eigeman), an officer in the Navy, and his cousin Ted (Taylor Nichols), a committed salesman.  Without intending to be, both are representatives of America, confronting myths about their home country floating around Barcelona at all times.  Spaniards know nothing about the U.S., but Fred and Ted have youthful ignorance of their own; and, to be sure, their excursions in Whit Stillman’s 1994 film, Barcelona, are wonderfully engaging.

Fred drifts toward common hedonism (but is also capable of falling in love) before discovering what a bad deal hedonism is.  Ted hankers for Protestant religious belief but fails to truly possess it.  Neither phenomenon victimizes the player, however; it is violent anti-Americanism that victimizes Fred.  He gets shot and no one knows if he will recover.  There is some irony in the fact that the cousins ineluctably like the Barcelona women from the trade fair and pursue them.  At last, as Stanley Kauffmann indicates, “almost everything is set to rights”: Fred and Ted find love, and they have survived anti-Americanism.  Like Stillman’s other films, Barcelona focuses on implacable change, and although its plot is not always solid, it is a bright, incisive trip.  And a tasteful and funny one.