Release Date: November 10, 2006
Casting Russell Crowe as an insufferable prick is like casting Alec Baldwin as a soul-less asshole, it is frighteningly accurate. And although Crowe doesn’t get to punch anyone in A Good Year, he does get to over-embellish the pomposity of his character, adding to the effect of a later life changing event that would make him a happy go lucky lover boy. It is both all too familiar and all too boring.
By now audience should be growing tired of these films that deliver the message that if you are a terrible human being, then all you need is a ch¢teau in France and a beautiful mate and that will cure your personality defects. Not only does this sort of film not ring true to any part of human life, but it always plays out the same way. We begin with a character, in this case Russell Crowe as Max Skinner, a day trader who loves only money and is hated the world over by his peers. We then add a back story about his childhood that should have made him a good person, case in point, visions of the delightful Albert Finney as Skinner’s wine loving, romanticizing uncle who teaches him to never take things for granted. Then comes the denial of these learnings, whereas Max has not spoken to his uncle in 10 years; and the event that would bring it all full circle, the uncles death.
Of course, as it always goes, Max is his uncles only living relative and must travel from London to France to handle the estate. His initial idea of handling the estate is to sell the chateau and make more of that green stuff that has corrupted his entire existence, but that is before he meets, you guessed it, a beautiful woman who re-teaches him all of the lessons of life. He instantly falls in love and spends the rest of his time figuring out what he wants more, his current life or a relaxed existence with a beautiful woman. You can pretty much figure out the rest from there, it is not that hard.
And while the movie itself is wrought with one painfully obvious clich© after another, there are some elements that can be enjoyed. One in particular is Ridley Scott’s ability to put everything on a grand scale. He does a wonderful job of showing off the French wine country. The mix of beautiful scenery and creative camera shots add both to the beauty of the environment and the unrealistic plot. In the end it comes out to be a film that just looks nice rather than “is” nice.
The acting isn’t half bad either; but as I mentioned before, it wasn’t really a stretch for Crowe until the end where he has to turn into a decent human being. And as they say, a performance without challenge is a performance without merit. In this performance, there is little merit and little to be excited about. In fact, the story does such a good job of keeping Crowe front and center that his nominal performance drums out the otherwise good performances of supporting cast members, especially Albert Finney. It could have used a little bit more of his humor, and a little bit more of a lot of things, in fact.
In the end this is a film targeted directly at people who like this kind of film no matter how many times they have to endure it. It just goes to show that if you keep the production values high, cast a big name lead actor, and add an attractive love interest and you will have some success. But for those of us who enjoy films that are aggressive, change the rules and break down boundaries, A Good Year is nothing more than a beautifully filmed waste of time.