A Good Year
Director(s): Ridley Scott
Writer(s): Marc Klein
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Nov 10, 2006 - Wide
Both Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe seem more at home in sweeping action films like A Kingdom of Heaven and Master & Commander or the last time they worked together on Gladiator. So it’s a little shocking at first to see them working together on a light comedy like A Good Year.
Crowe plays Max Skinner, a London-based financial genius whose the biggest shark in a tank full of them. He crushes companies down only to buy their stocks at depressed prices. He lives for the thrill of the kill, a self-confessed workaholic who doesn’t “do weekends.” So when his beloved uncle (Albert Finney) dies in France, Max, the apparent heir, flies over for what he expects to be a quick sale. Provence has other plans for him though, as he begins to remember his youthful summers spent with his uncle (the flashbacks feature Freddie Highmore as Max) and starts to fall in love with the worn-down estate, its vineyard, and the local cafe owner, played with charm by Marion Cotillard. He learns to slow down a little and begins to enjoy life, even if the estate’s concerned winemaker Francis Duflot ( Didier Bourdon) gives him more headaches than his deals in the UK. Max’s attention to his current situation begins to affect his job back in London and the appearance of a previously unknown cousin (Abbie Cornish) has the potential of derailing his inheritance.
Director Scott has had a holiday home in the area for about fifteen years, so the making of A Good Year is a bit of a working vacation for him. One can almost imagine that he and Crowe constructed the project to give themselves a chance to hang out together with great wine and sumptuous food after the day’s shooting was done. Even the novelist who wrote the book the film was based on, Peter Mayle, an old Scott friend, has a home in the region.
If you look at the Scott’s portfolio, with classics like Alien, Blade Runner and Thelma & Louise, you might not think he has much experience working on comedies and, like his star, the world of laughs is a new territory for him. Some of the comic moments are a bit clunky but I think that Crowe has enough charm to get you on his side. His relationship with Cotillard’s Fanny (that’s a capital “F” folks) does have the required charm and chemistry. Aussie Abbie Cornish’s California girl has the right amount of New World cockiness and Tom Hollander, as Max’s friend, drops off his intelligent one-liners with the right aplomb. Didier Bourdon and Isabelle Candelie are also funny and charming as the winemaker and his wife. Some of the best scenes in the film occur in flashback and Albert Finney and Freddie Highmore handle the warmth of the scenes superbly. I almost wish there was more to their story as they had such a great relationship and we barely scrape the surface of what may have put distance between him and Crowe’s adult Max.
Scott obviously loves the region and his camera makes sure we fall in love with it too. You can almost feel the warmth of the sunlight slowing you down to enjoy some wine and cheese and if this wasn’t a movie it would be shown on a loop at travel agencies to lure tourists into purchasing vineyard holidays. A Good Year straddles the genres of romantic comedy and landscape panorama. Though it may not leave a lasting impression, like a nice wine and a great meal, it’s a good way to spend some time away from the hectic pace of the everyday world.