Anytime you set a film in the French or Italian vineyards it automatically has some appeal. The magnificent landscapes are calming and comfortable and that rings true with A Good Year, but there is a certain something that just doesn’t work here making this film nowhere near what it could have been. I am still waiting for that perfect visit to the vineyard, a movie I can really settle in and enjoy throughout, this is not it.
Back in 2003 I was far too kind to the Diane Lane starrer Under the Tuscan Sun, I gave that movie an “A-” where it probably deserved something like a “C+” or a “C.” A Good Year is not as good as Tuscan Sun, but it does make for a good comparison considering the setting and the transparent storyline.
Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott are teaming together for the first time since the Oscar-winner Gladiator and this appears to be Ridley’s weakest film to date, it’s almost as if he didn’t know what to do and just got bored. This is understandable as thestory offers nothing new telling the traditional tale of a guy that is mean to everyone, only thinks of himself, has a life-changing experience, rethinks everything he has ever done and what he will do and ultimately comes out the better person in the end. You can see it coming from a mile away and if it wasn’t for the picturesque landscapes this movie would have really had a hard time convincing people to stay in their seats. You couldn’t set this kind of story in downtown Los Angeles and get away with it; there isn’t enough story to support another locale.
Russell Crowe stars as Max Skinner, a Blighty investment expert who is hated throughout his industry for his questionable practices and take no prisoners attitude. He only gets respect due to his position, but it is certainly obvious he is not loved by anyone. The only good thing in his life was his uncle (Albert Finney) whom he hasn’t seen for 10 years and has just passed away, leaving Max his vineyard in Provence.
Max’s life is numbers but for one week he leaves for France with an eye on selling the property and abandoning the only thing he ever loved in his life.
Crowe is not right for this role. He does have a certain softness that he is able to show on screen, but there isn’t enough of it to make this performance believable and Ridley Scott is out of his element. Scott can certainly set a mood and thbe countryside looks phenomenal, but when things get slow he resorts to silly camera tricks such as slo-mo tennis matches or increased frame rate car sequences to satisfy his active imagination. Unfortunately these moments come across almost feeling like “Looney Tunes” setting them apart from the dramatic story that is attempting to be told.
After the baffling box-office failure of Cinderella Man it looks like Russell Crowe is going to have a couple of numbers failures in a row. Lucky for Crowe, Scott and us for that matter, these two are returning to what they know best in 2007 with American Gangster also starring Denzel Washington. I love both Ridley and Russell’s work, but this one is not the best example of what they have to offer.