It’s not an unforgivable effort from Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe, but let there be no questions about the fact that A Good Year is no more than a mediocre film. Scott, a director at his best with large-budget action movies, such as Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, hardly seems the right man to trust with a romantic comedy such as this, and Crowe, always a pleasure to watch in complex, gritty roles, is neither convincing nor thirty. A Good Year draws on almost every rom-com cliché in the book, but it’s not very funny, and the questionable central message seems to be that the French countryside can solve all your personal problems.
Crowe plays Max Skinner, a London investment banker obsessed with money. Only a day after a move of questionable legality on his part nets his firm a profit of $77 billion, Skinner discovers that his uncle Henry (portrayed in flashback by Albert Finney), his closest remaining relative, has died on his small estate and vineyard in France. Skinner decides to sell it, of course, but on his trip to inspect the estate his encounters with the impassioned vintner Duflot (Didier Bourdon), beautiful French girl Fanny Chenal (Marion Cotillard), and, ultimately, Henry’s illegitimate daughter Christie (Abbie Cornish) begin to remind him of what the estate meant to him as a child. The ending is a foregone conclusion, many of the jokes fall flat, and the cast neither offends nor impresses throughout.
Crowe is not only too stoic to play Skinner, he is also too old – the romance between he and Fanny Chenal seems plausible up until one remembers that the two are supposed to be the same age – around thirty – but no amount of makeup or screen magic can change the fact that Crowe is clearly at least forty. Crowe is too good an actor to deserve a thrashing for his performance, but he’s not particularly charismatic, and there’s not much reason to care for him beyond his being the main character! . It&rsq uo;s an unremarkable performance from an actor we’re used to watching in remarkable roles, and throughout A Good Year I couldn’t help but think of how much better a movie Gladiator was.
Like Crow, the rest of the cast is competent but nothing special; even Albert Finney in his brief flashback appearances manages nothing more but to seem a particularly charming drunken sod. Bourdon gives possibly the film’s best performance, by which I really mean that I liked his character the most, but there’s very little charming about this movie, and why go to a romantic comedy if not to be charmed? Neither of the film’s two central females gives any particular reason to care for them, either, and Cotillard’s turn as Fanny Chenal especially lacks conviction – she describes herself one way, and then acts quite differently. Perhaps worst of all is Cornish’s French accent; when she tried to speak I winced, and I don’t have even the most basic knowledge of French.
For all its faults, A Good Year is not a painful to watch, and I imagine you’ll be sufficiently entertained if you should choose to go watch it. But, really, why would you? Everyone you know in the cast has far better work for you to sample, and the ones you don’t know probably will soon enough. Still, if you’re looking for something light and fluffy, this may be the fall movie for you.
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