A Good Year directed by Ridley Scott , written by Marc Klein (screenplay) and Peter Mayle (novel) (Fox 2000 Pictures and Scott Free Productions, PG-13, 117 minutes)
Starring Russell Crowe, Abbie Cornish and Albert Finney.
One would normally think a reunion between director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe would result in another action film, like Gladiator. However, the duo paired up not for an action flick, but for a French-country inspired gastro-romantic film A Good Year. Being purely honest, while I enjoyed it, it was predictable.
Adapted from Peter Mayle’s book of the same name, the movie opens with a young Max Skinner (Freddie Highmore) sitting at his Uncle Henry (Albert Finney)’s French wine estate. In a moment of naked foreshadowing, Uncle Henry remarks that wine is “incapable of lying.” We then get the pleasure of meeting Max all grown up (Russell Crowe), who instead of taking up the reigns of his Uncle’s legacy, has become a ferociously aggressive, London bond trader. Upon his Uncle’s death, however, Max learns that he inherited the vineyard by default, as his Uncle neglected to write a proper will. By French law, the vineyard goes to his closest living relative.
Max, instead of continuing his Uncle’s choice trade, decides to make a quick sale based on the advice of his best friend, Charlie (Tom Hollander), who is a London real-estate agent. Max travels to the vineyard to check out the estate before putting it on the market.
An inevitable romance arrives when French bistro owner, Fanny (Marion Cotillard) enters the scene as a bicyclist whom the asinine Skinner runs off the road with his car. It’s not the idyllic romance by any means, but Max finds her enamoring nonetheless, and begins to relentlessly pursue her.
Another romance begins as Max, normally abrasive in nature, begins to soften as he notices the brighter sun, the tasty grapes, and the lighter atmosphere. As he begins to fix up the estate with his uncle’s winemaker (Didier Bourdon). Unfortunately for Max, a young woman from California, Christie Roberts (Abbie Cornish), shows up and claims to be Uncle Henry’s illegitimate daughter. If her sudden announcement proves to be true, she would get the vineyard, not Max, which proves to be a problem.
Ridley Doesn’t Strike Again
One would normally expect a cutthroat battle to ensue, wherein Max and Christie fight for the estate, perhaps an apropos occasion for Ridley Scott’s normal movie-making magic to make an appearance. Alas, non (as the French would say), they just smile and get along. Christie, an oenophile from Napa Valley, learns more about her father; Max becomes more like his Uncle; and everything is all sunshine and roses.
If A Good Year were a glass of wine, it would be a nice rosé, as opposed to Scott’s normal heavy-bodied red wine—like the movies he normally makes. It’s a fun story, with an extremely picturesque countryside. But, it’s a little bland, which I don’t think is Ridley Scott’s fault (or for that matter, Crowe’s). I blame the screenwriter, Marc Klein, who took all the witty banter originally in the book, removed it, and took a would-be blockbuster away from the hands of Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe. Unfortunately, it’s no blockbuster, but I still wanted to visit Provence, France and sip a glass of wine immediately after the film. In short, I’ll watch it again.
Verdict: 3 out of 5