A British investment broker inherits his uncle's chateau and vineyard in Provence, where he spent much of his childhood. He discovers a new laid-back lifestyle as he tries to renovate the estate to be sold.
After years of no contact with his Uncle Henry, London banker and bond trader Max Skinner learns that Henry has died intestate, so Max inherits a château and vineyard in Provence. Max spent part of his childhood there, learning maxims and how to win and lose, and honing his killer instinct (at chess, which serves him well in finance). Max goes to France intent on selling the property. He spends a few days there, getting the property ready to show. Memories, a beautiful woman, and a young American who says she's Henry's illegitimate daughter interrupt his plans. Did Max the boy know things that Max the man has forgotten? Written by
A Moment Spent with Marion Cotillard Would Make My Year!
Food tastes better there. The women are naturally beautiful. Walks are more romantic. Wine is more complex... but life is less so. France can turn good memories into grand ones. It replaces currency with passion. It replaces accumulation with appreciation.
I believe the above statement to be very true. France is among the loveliest countries that I've ever been privileged to visit. If they had ESPN, I'd consider moving there. So when I heard that Ridley Scott was directing Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard in a film about a money-hungry British stock-broker who is lured into giving it all up for an inherited French vineyard, I thought it would be right up my alley.
To be honest, the film is so far up my alley that I felt my dreams were being violated. I cannot imagine a life more pleasurable than one spent living in a château, overlooking my own vineyard, waking up every morning to the glorious sensation of Marion Cotillard's morning breath. I'm practically orgasmic at that idea.
"A Good Year" is a crystal glass filled to the brim with 1982 Château Margaux... but unfortunately diluted by some city tap water.
As mentioned before, I loved the premise. The cast is equal to the task. The cinematography is only enhanced by the country's natural canvas. The music is eclectic and joyful, ranging from old standards to a traditional up-tempo score to the modern energy of tracks like Alizee's "Moi Lolita" -- which was, oddly, not chosen to play upon the arrival of a certain character. Nevertheless...
Everything about this film is a deliciously prepared meal... on a paper plate. The plate, in this case, is a flimsy script that brushes over too many details, cannot maintain its tone for more than a scene or two, reaches for grandeur without ever attaining it, and presumes its audience is naive and unworldly.
There are just too many scenes in this film that demanded more time and effort. Characters fall in love too easily. Massive decisions are taken too lightly. The tone shifts uncomfortably from romantic to slapstick to tragic to wistful to sarcastic. It all just felt a little forced. Screenwriter, Marc Klein, seems to be trying too hard. And Ridley Scott seems rushed, as though the studio demanded a running time under two hours.
It is a shame really, because the film has greatness in it... but they uncorked the bottle before it had time to mature.
Russell Crowe is relentlessly reliable on screen. He rarely, if ever, gives even a mediocre performance. It is no wonder that he is so highly regarded. I just thought that his character, Max Skinner (too obvious), was written so two-dimensionally as to handcuff his immense talent. I also thought his English accent was a little too "mate, blimey, b*llocks, b*gger, tally ho" -- If you know what I mean.
Marion Cotillard is typically brilliant as Fanny Chenal, the glorious vision of a waitress from the nearby town. She gives the film, and Max, some heart and soul. She is a fiery French lass with shampoo-commercial hair and skin that makes silk seem like sandpaper. I can't get enough of this actress. She is the visual equivalent of Pringles... once you pop, you can't stop.
Relative newcomer, Abbie Cornish, is also very impressive here. Again, her character, like all the others, is somewhat underwritten. She deserved much more screen time. However, this critic is 100% sure that she will have tons of screen time in many major films over the next decade or so. She is a future star, with talent and beauty in equal measures.
"A Good Year" may remind many of the similar Diane Lane adventure from the female perspective, "Under the Tuscan Sun". The main difference, aside from the sex of the protagonist, is that "Tuscan" decided from the get-go that it was going to be a lighthearted romantic comedy. I think that the screenplay for "A Good Year" got a little confused along the way. Sometimes it aims higher... and that is when it works the best. Other times it aims lower... and that is when it dwindles into lame slapstick comedy. If it had maintained a lofty romantic tone, it may have been one of the best films of the year. As it stands, it is a merely a nice film with a pleasant message.