A Good Year

 
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by:Mark Klein
Starring: Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Freddie Highmore, Abbie Cornish, Tom Hollander, Marion Cotillard
Released: November 9, 2006
Grade: C+

I am a big fan of Ridley Scott, the director of Gladiator, Black Hawk Down and Matchstick Stick.  Further, I recently included Russell Crowe in my favourite actors list (at number 4) on the basis of his work in A Beautiful Mind, Cinderella Man and The Insider.  How then, is this film so awful?

It begins in London with Max Skinner (Crowe) leading a successful stockbroking team.  He was the mastermind behind a series of unethical transactions which netted the firm $77m.  He doesn’t care that he’s breaking the rules.  All he wants is to be a winner and create as many enemies as he can along the way.

I hated Max Skinner.  I hated his personality, I hated his accent and I hated his smugness.  This wouldn’t ordinarily be a criticism (since there are lots of films with dislikeable people) but the problem is that the film wants me to like him (at least in the end).  My opinion never changed.

Max’s transformation begins when he receives word that his Uncle Henry (Finney) has passed away.  They were like father and son with the parentless Max growing up on his uncle’s French vineyard.  Over time though, they slowly drifted apart.  Max’s demanding life in London meant that there was no longer time to visit, or even communicate, with Uncle Henry.

Max soon learns that as his uncle’s closest living relative, it is he who will inherit the estate.  After travelling to France to inspect his new property, Max finds himself flooded with memories of his childhood.  The sentimentality isn’t enough to change his mind about the property however.  He has little use for it and intends to sell it, despite the protests of Uncle Henry’s dearest friends and employees.

Fate then arrives.  A coincidental series of events leaves Max stranded at the vineyard.  An unknown cousin and an attractive waitress will then enter his life.  The more time they spent together, the more Max doubts himself.  Should he sell the estate?  Is the life in London worth returning to?

If you want to know the answer, you can see the film for yourself.  I didn’t care however.  The story was artificial and too hard to believe.  I haven’t read Peter Mayle’s novel, on which the film is based, but it has to be deeper than this simplistic film.

Reminiscent of 2003’s Under The Tuscan Sun (with Diane Lane), A Good Year is a muddled mix of comedy and drama.  I didn’t laugh at Russell Crowe’s not-so-subtle attempts at humour nor was I moved by the myriad of 1980s flashbacks.  Furthermore, what’s with Max’s secretary, Gemma?  There are a multitude of wasted scenes where the two yammer back and forth on the phone (particularly in the first half hour).

They may think it’s a good year but in reality, it’s nothing more than two wasted hours.