A Good Year
Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Marion Cotillard, Abbie Cornish, Didier Bourdon, Isabelle Candelier, Freddie Highmore, Tom Hollander. (2006, PG-13, 118 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Nov. 10, 2006
If nothing else, this adaptation of Peter Mayle's umpteenth ode to livin' la vie en Provence will make you wonder about Ridley Scott and the directorial aging process. This isn't to say Scott is lying down on the job – no more than Mayle could be accused of cush'n it through the vineyards and châteaux of Southern France, anyway (no fool he) – but simply that it is difficult to reconcile this film with the director who made the bleak confections The Duelists, Alien, and Blade Runner. (None of these films, to my memory, featured such a languid pace, so much gustatory deliciousness, or Russell "Put My Call Through Or I'll Brain You" Crowe in a sleeveless V-neck pullover with navy blue piping.) There's nary a trace of doom throughout, unless you count Finney's epicurian Uncle Henry, who cedes his château in Provence to beloved nephew Max Skinner (Crowe). In the time it's taken Max to grow up and move to London, the boy has grown into a louche, selfish, entirely unsympathetic trader of bonds, prone to duplicity, and nothing at all like the brainy young pipsqueak Henry entertained all those summers ago with diluted wines culled from his own vineyards. It's absolutely no surprise then when Max flies to France with the aim of selling the château for a quick million or 5 and ends up falling in love (with Cotillard's brilliantly named bistro owner, Fanny, and good God, man, what's not to love?) and coming to realize the error of his Western, pedestrian ways. As it stands, there are precious few surprises in A Good Year – its story, like its garden paths, is well-trod and familiar. It's also quite charming, in its way, a divertissement of no particular offense other than, perhaps, pushing audience buttons, notably those marked "Quit Day Job, Move to Provence." Which, quite frankly, sounds like a lovely idea.