A Good Year

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A Good Year
Review (6/10)
(By Brendan Cullin)

In A Good Year, Russell Crowe stars as Max Skinner, an extremely successful but seemingly lonely London financier who has just inherited his uncle's vineyard estate. As a young boy, Max was raised at the vineyard playing chess and tennis, swimming and even drinking wine. Unfortunately, once he became wealthy he lost contact with his uncle, but because there was no official will and Max is his only known living relative, the estate is all his. However, the vineyard is in France and Max is not going to give up his successful life in England, so he jets off to France to have the land appraised and sold. Unfortunately for Max, his plan to get in and out of France as quickly as possible doesn't quite go as planned and he ends up spending a few extra days with the vineyard's caretaker, his wife, their dog and a few other people who drop in unannounced. During his time in the French countryside, Max falls in love with both the vineyard and some of the other beautiful French scenery and begins to have his doubts about moving back to his English homeland.

Directed by Sir Ridley Scott (whom I had the pleasure of bumping into in the bathroom after the screening), A Good Year is a movie I was expecting to be Russell Crowe's 2006 ticket to the Oscars, something he has seemed to be doing on a regularly basis over the last several years. I had even heard the movie being compared to Sideways. A colleague of mine saw it and gave it a 9/10. So I went into this movie with a certain amount of anticipation and I have to admit, I was a bit disappointed.

A Good Year is a well-acted, well-written, well-directed movie but it just wasn't my cup of tea. I found it a bit too slow at times, I had a hard time with the English accents at other times and I didn't find it very funny at all. I am sure there is a certain sophisticated, wine-drinking, English-humour loving movie-going crowd to whom this movie will appeal but sadly, I am not one of those people. That's not to say that I totally despised A Good Year. Like I said earlier, it's a well-made movie and it does have its moments. Hell, I could even be way off on Russell Crowe - maybe he will get his annual Oscar nod for this movie. But for me, he's just not the shoe-in that he has been in the past. I guess only time will tell but if you want my opinion, and chances are you probably don't, A Good Year is too slow and not nearly as funny as it wants to be, especially to wet this non-wine drinking palate.

A Good Year stars Russell Crowe as Max Skinner, a high-powered European financial wizard who inherits a vineyard from his uncle (Albert Finney). At first, Max plans to sell the vineyard to the highest bidder but, after spending a little time on the property and remembering the time he spent there as a child, he begins to have second thoughts. The movie also stars Tom Hollander as Max's lawyer, Abbie Cornish as a girl who may (or may not) pose a threat to Max's inheritance and Marion Cotillard as the object of Max's affections. We also get Freddie Highmore as a young Max Skinner.

I first saw this movie at last year's Toronto Film Festival and actually enjoyed it. It's not bad. It's not great. It's exactly what it is. A simple story about a complex guy returning to his simple roots. It is also a reteaming of Crowe and director Ridley Scott who previously worked together on "Gladiator". And while this movie is no "Gladiator" it is good in its own right. The humor is subtle, the performances are quiet and the movie is a nice departure for all involved.

Special features on this DVD include:

Postcards from Provence - The text introduction says it best. This is a "feature-length hybrid of video featurettes and audio commentary by director/producer Ridley Scott and screenwriter Marc Klein". There's also the option of watching the video selections on their own. A unique feature that is well worth the time.

Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott Promo - A feature, interlaced with clips from the movie, where the duo discuss the film from the set.

Features are rounded out by some trailers, some TV spots and three Music Videos.

While you might think something with Russell Crowe directed by Ridley Scott would be a great "guys" night out, this movie is nothing like their previous collaboration. Instead, it offers something entirely new for the two. While I've heard it described as a "romantic comedy" I personally wouldn't go that far. Sure, there are moments of romance and moments of comedy, but I use that term loosely. It's the story of a man and his journey to re-discover himself. I would instead recommend this movie for a quiet night at home with your significant other. And don't forget a nice bottle of wine.


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