|A Good Year (2006)
Starring: Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Abbie Cornish, Marion Cotillard, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, Didier Bourdon, Tom Hollander, Freddie Highmore
Director: Ridley Scott
If you’ve seen the trailer for “A Good Year” and thought, “I’ve seen this movie before,” it’s probably because you have. The producers of this film must have thought that a quick change in scenery and a new face would help enliven the tale, but in the end, director Ridley Scott is left with little more than a story that feels remarkably like “Under the Tuscan Sun;” with Russell Crowe, of course, replacing Diane Lane in the lead role. And because both of these films are based on novels, it’s a bit difficult to claim plagiarism on either studio’s part. Of course, the whole vineyard vacation thread has become ever so popular as of late, but while the film offers a breathtaking view of the French countryside, it falls short of delivering anything remotely original.
Crowe stars as Max Skinner, a callous London stockbroker who has nearly forgotten about all of his wonderful childhood summers spent in France on his Uncle Henry’s (Albert Finney) vineyard. Recently ostracized by his fellow colleagues for legally cheating the system, Max jumps at the chance to get out of town when he receives news that Henry has passed away. As Henry’s sole heir, Max travels to Provence with plans to sell the estate and quickly return to the fast-paced world of stocks, but when a young American girl (Abbie Cornish) shows up claiming to be the illegitimate daughter of Henry, Max’s money-making scheme is put in jeopardy. When he meets a beautiful local woman (Marion Cotillard) and begins to reconnect with the environment around him, however, Max uncovers a change in life for the better.
It shouldn’t go without saying that director Scott is completely out of his element here, and it certainly shows in his formulaic execution of the material. It’s not that the film is terrible in any particular manner, but rather just incredibly predictable. The story follows the exact path that you would expect it to take, with little or no intrusions along the way. The addition of several flashback sequences revealing a much younger Max (played by Freddie Highmore) is a nice touch, but it doesn’t offer anything new about his relationship with Henry that the audience doesn’t already know.
Equally as ineffective are Scott’s attempts at making the film both comedic and heartwarming, when it’s in fact neither. Crowe’s character is meant to be charming, but his goofy demeanor is never actually funny; to the point where a random “Benny Hill” gag is employed to almost no laughter. Max is also kind of an asshole, so you’ll probably find it questionable that he’s able to change gears so quickly and become a pleasant human being the minute he steps foot in France.
What makes this movie, then, so worthy of an average rating? Simple. The film’s supporting cast is amazing, from the effervescent Archie Panjabi (“Bend It Like Beckham”) as Max’s loyal assistant, to the scene-stealing Tom Hollander (“Pride & Prejudice,” “Pirates of the Caribbean”) as his lawyer-friend, there’s so many colorful characters for Max to interact with that you’ll almost forgive the lifelessness of the main character, let alone the sheer lack of originality in the script. It’s definitely not great, and it may not even be good, but it’s everything you would expect in a movie about living life to the fullest. Perhaps they should have just called it “An Okay Year.”
I wasn’t expecting much out of the DVD release for Ridley Scott’s “A Good Year” (one of the year’s most surprising flops), but this is just ridiculous. Out of the handful of special features that do appear, only one is actually worth watching, and oddly enough, it’s the three music videos featuring Russell Crowe and his new band, The Ordinary Fear of God. Expertly described in the Frenzal Rhomb tune “Russell Crowe’s Band” as “a fucking pile of shit,” Crowe’s attempts at rock superstardom are beyond laughable. Also included is the “Postcards from Provence” behind-the-scenes experience that sprinkles video featurettes and audio commentary throughout the length of the film, as well as a short promo for the film.