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The Vintner's Luck
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Reviews & Ratings for
A Heavenly Vintage More at IMDbPro »The Vintner's Luck (original title)

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11 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Could have been so much more.

6/10
Author: tragedyamber from United States
18 June 2010

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

This review definitely contains spoilers.

After waiting what seems like forever for this movie, I was finally able to see it the other night. In the interest of full disclosure, let me start by saying that the novel by Elizabeth Knox is one of my favorite books of all time. When I heard a film was being made, I was skeptical. That this complicated, strange and beautiful book could be made into a film with any semblance of coherence, let alone quality, seemed impossible. Keeping this in mind, I watched the film with a very careful, very critical eye, and fully expected to hate it.

I didn't. But I can't say I liked it much either.

The casting is almost perfect. Jeremy Renier, Gaspard Ulliel and Vera Farmiga are dead-on as far as appearance and mannerisms, and all do a wonderful job with the parts they play. Keisha Castle-Hughes is a question mark; she's a good actress who does well in the beginning, but when her character begins to age, her gravitas vanishes, and this took me right out of a lot of scenes. It's hard not to roll your eyes when the woman playing the aging mother of several children looks at least ten years younger than her eldest daughter. But this casting error seems minor when laid next to the film's more obvious fault: the angel.

Xas is a problem because his role in both the story and Sobran's life is diminished. While it's made clear he's important to Sobran and Sobran to him (through telling, not showing, which is always annoying) the *point* of their relationship is never explored. I'm honestly not sure if Niki Caro intended for them to be seen as lovers or not, and that's an issue, not because (as one reviewer suggests) no fan of the book could be satisfied without a sex scene, but because it muddles the whole angel plot and turns a fascinating character into set dressing. It's impossible to tell whether Xas is manipulating events or if his sole purpose is to make wine and spout metaphors, in which case, why is he bothering? The consequences of his immortality and the removal of his wings are not so much as touched on in the film, and this lack of exposition makes it very hard to care about him. If you're going to have an angel in a story like this one, about humans and humanity, there needs to be a good reason, otherwise it just doesn't fit. I'm frankly baffled as to why the director would choose to remove so many fantasy elements (not to mention a murder mystery subplot) from the story. Replace thirty-minutes of artsy shots of vines and bees with some actual *plot* and this would have been a much more interesting film.

That said, the cinematography (save for some inexcusably ridiculous shots of the angel in flight) is wonderful and the score is lovely throughout. Some of the softer scenes, early conversations between Xas and Sobran, and later between Sobran and Aurora, are directly lifted from the book and entirely too beautiful, the best moments in the film - and that's kind of my whole issue. With source material that good, you don't have to make huge changes to suit your "vision" (showcasing Castle-Hughes is a blatant priority, and a straight-washing of what is, at its core, a gay love story, and that's problematic whether you choose to regard it as such or not) or ego (clearly the director wanted to tell her own tale, not Knox's, and simply used the novel as a springboard).

The Vintner's Luck's incurable flaw is its pointlessness; ironic, considering there is a scene in which Sobran laments a lifetime of love and effort resulting in nothing. That almost perfectly describes the film itself.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Vintner and his angel.

8/10
Author: Joshuamwc
6 October 2012

Having read the novel by Elizabeth Knox I had high hopes for the film. I bought the DVD and when I got round to the viewing I was impressed by Niki Caro's rendition. The movie was beautifully crafted from start to finish with the exception of the wasted screen time establishing the landscape. Too much screen time was dedicated to the albeit beautiful French/New Zealand landscape. The casting was perfect, each of the protagonists had a part to play romantically to Sobran Jodeau. Celeste (Keisha Castle Hughes) was the physical, the Baroness (Vera Farmiga) being Intelletual and Xas (Gaspard Ulliel) the spiritual. One factor I found disappointing was the relationship between Sobran and Xas in the novel played a significant role in influencing the fruition of Sobran's dreams to create a wine never tasted, yet in the film the relationship seemed downplayed. Which is a shame because it seemed like the film missed something which would have brought justice to the novel. However I definitely think that this movie is a gem which touches on a mythical theme not explored in the film Industry. The introduction of the angel Xas seemed very believable and I believe Niki managed to bring to life Elizabeth Knox's story of a vintner and his angel to life.

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2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:

Unjustly Maligned Adaptation of a Fabled Novel

7/10
Author: l_rawjalaurence from London
28 November 2013

THE VINTNER'S LUCK has had a bad press since its 2009 release on account of its slow pace and apparently perfunctory characterization. In truth the story is straightforward enough, as vintner Sobran Jodeau (Jérémie Renier) learns how to cultivate a vineyard with the help of angel (Gaspard Ulliel), while trying to bring up his family, and coping with an ineffectual patron (Keisha Castle-Hughes). The film emphasizes quite strongly that individuals should make their own luck in order to succeed; Jodeau discovers this at the end, after his vineyard has been blighted by a bug, and the angel suddenly becomes a mortal. The pleasures of this film lie in the beautiful photography - in Burgundy and New Zealand, both standing in for eighteenth century France - by Denis Lenoir, and the finely judged camera-work by director Niki Caro. One gesture, one expression is worth a thousand words.

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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

A beautiful film that brings forth a world of desire, lust and passion as well as death and anguish. The true duality of life.

9/10
Author: lleone8 from United States
6 June 2011

This film, which transports us to 19th century France, is so beautiful in so many ways. It seeps in and touches you with the delicacy of a fine wine. The pace of it let's you digest each moment and allows you to linger in a wonderful world of passion, desire, spiritedness as well as death and anguish. Which is why I loved the film so much...the duality of it. It's not like your typical Hollywood movie in which one thing or another is forced onto you. The film takes you on a journey where you can think about, and more importantly feel the duality of life...the duality of your own life and spirit. It awakens an understanding within yourself through the characters and the script. The acting is superb...Vera Farmiga is at her best and Keisha Castle-Hughes has become a fierce woman with such raw vibrancy I was wishing for more of her. The script takes the kind of turns and risks you can only hope for when watching a film. Filled with such feeling and thought it's a tale that lingers on long after leaving the theater....isn't that what art is all about.

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13 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

inspiring and moving look at the trials and tribulations experienced by a 19th century wine maker!

8/10
Author: Adam0001 from Canada, Toronto
13 September 2009

I was thrilled to hear Niki Caro was going to make this movie, no one else would have been able to portray the 'basic' elements of the novel better than she could and very well did. From start to finish the movie consisted of a real feeling of love and life. More so that she exactly put just that into making this film. The importance of simple things which when given love, sweat and time grow into something special, which if you haven't read the novel is the basic idea.

There is a heavy pagan love of the earth atmosphere in the movie ensuring an uplifting feeling. Leading me onto the visuals which where spot on, the sweeping French vineyards and valleys where just as I imagined them.

The casting was perfect, Sobran who is played by Jeremie Renier provided us with a inspiring and moving look at the trials and tribulations experienced by a 19th century wine maker. I would hate to give this remarkable film any negativity but it does bare mentioning that Xas is completely neglected. Played by the fantastic Gaspard Ulliel much that could have been anticipated was actually not used at all. In fact almost all of the characters fascinating background such as his knowledge of there whereabouts of haven and hell, his relationship with another human, other than Sobran, and the reason why he is a fallen angel is not remotely even mentioned in the movie. The angel seams to be of no importance sadly and could in fact have been withdraw all together. Niki Caro sort of justified this in the Q&A "the movie is about life". It seams to me that she didn't want to add the philosophical characteristic's which was very sad to me, Xas is a captivating individual. Aurora De Valday (Vera Farmiga) was compelling but sadly Celeste (Keisha Castle-Hughes) fell flat in the second half.

Many fans of the novel might be disappointed due to the amount of fundamental moments in the development of the characters which is simply dropped out all together. However I do strongly think that this is as great an adaptation as anyone could have hoped for. Also if its anything to go by I was at the gala presentation, after which it received a huge round of applause.

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23 out of 44 people found the following review useful:

Strong wine for developed palettes. This is one vintage you will not want to miss

8/10
Author: tburstyn-1
22 November 2009

Disclaimer: I have not read the Elizabeth Knox book Nikki Caro's film The Vintner's Luck is based on so can not make a comparison - which given that films are not books, might be a good thing. Films are creations with their own forces. Nikki Caro did not engage in the arduous process of making a film simply to channel Knox or to realize Knox on screen. She is here to create her own vision. This is what all artists do.

It is rather ironic that at the same time Vintner's Luck is undergoing a national reaming in New Zealand we are also attacking Witi Ihimaera's so-called plagiarism. And yet when Nikki Caro dares to bring her own vision to the screen she is lambasted for not plagiarizing enough.

Her film is layered and complex as any story of a relationship between an angel and a man would be, even more so as the film is grappling with bigger issues of morality and mortality.

If Nikki is guilty of anything it is her attempt to make the Knox novel comprehensible and accessible to a wide audience. To cynics like me who find the idea of fleshy angels simply silly, the film balances that feathery conundrum perfectly. Especially as it seems that all the criticism revolves around this one thing – the intangible and problematic issue of man and angels. It's a relationship portrayed in art from earliest times. And it's intensely personal; especially for Knox fans - who it seems - will be satisfied by nothing less than full-on feather sex. Is it the thwarting of their inner voyeurs that has unleashed this storm? In fact by not staying too close to the Knox book, by in some ways separating the angel and the man and allowing the man to form an (albeit conflicted) bond with an earth bound woman the angelic relationship becomes more believable, more symbolic of our human struggle with desire. And that's something I can understand: after all, are we not all in lifelong relationships with our angels as we grapple with the sensual, the sacred and the profane in search of our perfect vintage? Don't be put of by the jaundiced reviews in New Zealand: Vintner's Luck, the movie, is strong wine for developed palettes. This is one vintage you will not want to miss, whether or not you believe in angels. Sumner Burstyn, NZ, sumnerburstyn@gmail.com

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

A Period Piece with Stunning Actors

8/10
Author: gradyharp from United States
21 April 2012

HEAVENLY VINTAGE (aka THE VINTNER'S LUCK) is a somewhat perplexing film. Based on a novel by Elizabeth Knox and adapted for the screen by Joan Scheckel and writer/director Niki Caro it comes across as a patchwork quilt - many fine story lines that don't seem to fit together into a grand whole. Niki Caro has some fine films in her resume - The Whale Ride, North Country, Memory & Desire - so she has proved that she knows her craft. She is supported by an astonishingly fine group of actors, a sensitive cinematographer (Denis Lenoir) and one of the best teams of costume designers (Justin Buckingham and Harry Harrison) and music composer Antonio Pinto, yet the story never becomes airbourne - and that is a particularly important factor in this film.

The year is 1815 and Sobran Jodeau (Jérémie Renier in yet another brilliant performance) is a peasant winemaker working or a château owned by Comte de Vully (Patrice Valota). Sobran falls in love with another peasant, Celeste (Keisha Castle-Hughes) despite the warning's about Celeste's mad father Sobran's father (Vania Vilers) claims Sobran will be doomed. Sobran longs to have his own vineyard and to make his own wine and one evening an angel (Gaspard Ulliel) appears to Sobran and encourages him to marry Celeste and begin his own vines and to meet the angel again in a year's time. A year later Sobran again meets his angel and reports he is not only married but that Celeste is pregnant. The angel encourages him to bravely begin his own vineyard. Sobran's goal is interrupted crop failure and by his going off to fight in Napoleon's war. He returns to the demise of Comte de Vully and the takeover of the Château by the counts niece, the beautiful Aurora de Valday (Vera Farmiga). Though Sobran and Aurora represent different classes they join together to make their dream of the perfect wine come true and there is a physical attraction that is consummated despite Sobran's commitment to his wife and children. Sobran meets his angel again and we sense the angel and Sobran are in love but a confession on the part of the angel creates a schism and form there the fortune of Sobran begins to dwindle until the resurgence of hope at the end: Sibran, Aurora, and Celestehave aged and Sobran's children are mature. The secrets of Sobran's heavenly vintage are revealed at last. 'A Heavenly Vintage is a beautiful and sensual tale about what it takes to create the perfect vintage.'

Jérémie Renier, Gaspard Ulliel and Vera Farmiga offer stunning performances but even they are unable to make the story memorable. Given those involved form the top to the bottom of this production it is difficult to understand why it does eventually work. But perhaps that is the fault of the novelist Elizabeth Knox. The film is worth for the actors and the stunning costumes and décor.

Grady Harp

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Legendary Show!

10/10
Author: crystalmengc from USA
16 March 2014

This is such a beautiful show about the relationship of man and angle. The friendship and conflict between them is so well filmed that it's almost legendary! The idea of a human's life from young to death, all is shown. I strongly suggest everyone to watch this beautiful show, you learn so much from it! I was laughing and crying with them, all of those emotions all came so strongly and powerfully. I had watch this movie at least 3 times now and the emotions still won't easy it self. The angle in this movie is so different from all the other ones I had watch, he seems so lonely! And OMG the wine maker! Sometime I want to knock him in the head ( don't ask me why)! But above all. Bless all who made this move!

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0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:

Much better then anticipated but not my kind of movie. If you watch it you must be in the mood for this. I say B-

6/10
Author: Tony Heck (cosmo_tiger@hotmail.com) from United States
29 March 2012

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Allow me this one night and I will give you the world, you and the children. I promise." A peasant (Renier) in 19th century France wants to make the perfect wine. After meeting an angel (Ulliel) in a garden and the niece of his former boss (Farmiga) they set out to do just that. He puts everything he has into his work in the hopes that his dream will come true. I have to start by saying that this is not my type of movie at all. That being said I didn't think this movie was that bad. It was very slow moving and was more like a live action romance novel but it kept me interested. I think the reason that I enjoyed this movie is that because I was expecting to fall asleep during it and I actually was interested toward the end. This is however another movie that once it's over you think...well that's over. To me it felt that way anyway. Overall, better then I expected but you must be into this type of movie. I give it a B-.

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5 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Beautiful rich film by Niki Caro

10/10
Author: clayboy44 from Canada
17 September 2009

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I saw The Vintner's Luck a few days ago at TIFF 2009 I have not been familiar with Niki Caro's work, had not read the book and really did not know what to expect.I came out of that film exhilarated. For me this was a passionate look at life, love, labour with a glimpse of spirituality. I thought the cast was exceptional in a film with beautiful photography and pace. The introduction of the angel was completely believable and added such a wonderful mystical element to this lyrical, romantic film.- Fallen but not evil. Ulliel was really perfect casting!

Critics have not all been kind but I think the audience potential for this film will be huge and cast off any negativity. At the second screening I attended, the audience was very appreciative in applause.I was blown away by what I had just seen. Caro should be proud of her accomplishment, as should the cast for bringing to life such amazing characters in such a beautifully realized story. And I'll look for the book now after this screening....

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