A Good Year (2006)
|Genre(s): Comedy / Drama / Romance|
|Fox || PG13 - 118 minutes || November 10, 2006|
|Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2006-11-23|
Writer(s): Peter Mayle (Novel), Marc Klein (screenplay)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hollander, Freddie Highmore
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The first time director Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe teamed up together, they made the hugely successful Gladiator. So when they decided to team up once more, naturally one would think that it would be some sort of epic or period piece. Instead, Crowe and Scott decided on A Good Year, based on the novel of the same name by Peter Mayle. Many have dubbed the film Under the Tuscan Sun for men. While that may be true to some extent, the film was unfortunately marketed the wrong way.
When I first saw the trailer for A Good Year, I assumed it was a romantic comedy like everyone else. Then I wondered why Crowe would choose to do a role like this. I didn't have much of an interest in the film but after watching it, I must say that I enjoyed it quite a bit.
First, this film is not a romantic comedy in the traditional sense. The film does have romantic elements but they take a backseat to the story. Traditionally in romantic comedies, the romance is in the foreground while the story is in the background. Essentially, the romance is an excuse to tell a story. In A Good Year, that is not the case.
Crowe plays Max Skinner, a wealthy banker who cares about nothing more than making money. When he finds out that his Uncle Henry (Albert Finney) has passed away and left him his vineyard in Provence, Max decides to go to France to try and sell the estate. While he is in France, he finds his old friend Duflot (Didier Bourdon) and his wife Ludivine (Isabelle Candelier) have helped run the vineyard since Uncle Henry's death. Max has not spoken to Henry for some time and as Max points out about himself: "it may have to do with the fact that I became an asshole." We find that Max has chosen to leave his memories behind him and decides to use money to replace those memories. Both Bourdon and Candelier give very funny, fantastic performances and act as Max's conscience as he decides whether or not to sell this estate or keep it.
While in this dilemma, Max literally runs into Fanny Chenal (Marion Cotillard) whom he begins to find an interest in. Uncle Henry's only known daughter Christie, (Abbie Cornish) also stops by the vineyard making Max's intentions and decisions even more difficult. Cotillard gives a fine performance for what she's given as does newcomer Abbie Cornish. Also look for Freddie Highmore (who has had a nice list of film credits in such a short span) as a young Max and Archie Panjabi as Max's assistant Gemma.
While the film is not the most original film ever made, it is still quite enjoyable. Most audiences are not used to seeing Crowe play a lighter role because of his past films like Gladiator, The Insider or Cinderella Man. Nevertheless, lighter, more comedic roles are nothing new to Crowe. He has played comedic roles in older films like Spotswood, Breaking Up and Mystery, Alaska. Although none of those past films are anything spectacular, Crowe still displays his comedic ability in those older films quite well. So it was no surprise to me that Crowe was able to handle all the physical comedy as well as having very good comedic timing in A Good Year. Crowe does a great job of displaying the dilemma of whether or not to sell this property and being afraid to trust anyone. The flashback scenes involving a young Max and Uncle Henry are all fantastically done by Scott. Although it feels like Finney is playing the same role he did in Big Fish, I think he and Highmore play off each other quite well. While Crowe and Finney never share any screen time, it is still great to see both these actors in the same film.
One aspect of the film that is undeniable is the cinematography. Whether one likes the film or not, after watching the film, they have to agree that the cinematography is breathtaking. Philippe Le Sourd does an extraordinary job shooting the vineyard and capturing the atmosphere of Provence. The choice of music for the film also adds very much to the overall atmosphere of the film. Scott uses three songs by Nilsson as well as tracks by Josephine Baker, Patti Page and more vintage French songs by Charles Trenet and Jean Sablon. New composer and Hans Zimmer disciple Marc Streitenfeld provides the electronic and post-modern sound for the film and does a rather good job with the main themes.
Yes, the film is predictable but no more than an Adam Sandler, Hugh Grant, Jack Black or Will Ferrell comedy. Crowe does a great job of making us not like him and then like him by the end. Max's redemption is not shocking but yet it is still believable because Scott makes it a gradual change. The film definitely feels like an ode to the French and Italian comedies of the 50's and 60's from Jacques Tati (Duflot's dog is even named Tati), Jacques Demy or even Fellini's lighter films from that time period. While the film is nothing groundbreaking it is still a fun, entertaining dramatic comedy and worth watching for the spectacular scenery if nothing else.