A GOOD YEAR IS A GOOD FILM
A GOOD YEAR
(3 out of 4 stars)
Directed by Sir Ridley Scott
Starring: Russ ell Crowe,
Albert Finney, Marion Cotillard,
Abbie Cornish, Freddie Highmore,
Didier bourdon, Marion Cotillard
118 minutes, Rated PG-13
Max Skinner (Russell Crowe) is a genius scoundrel. As a stock broker in London, he never takes a vacation (“It’s death,” he explains). And in his profession, few are his equal. Those that know him love to hate him. Max relishes this persona, but we sense that this might not be who he is at heart.
A Good Year is an entertaining fantasy that’s utterly charming. It is an excellent vehicle for Crowe to be presented as playful and entertaining. This amusing tale takes Max from London—following a major and controversial kill on the market—back to his youthful home on a vineyard in France. As a boy, his parents died, leaving him in the care of his wealthy ne’er-do-well uncle Henry (Albert Finney). When the film opens, Uncle Henry has died, leaving us to see him only in flashbacks, as memories come to Max in Proustian fashion. Max sees something in Henry’s old home, and the remembrances of Henry instantly flow back to him.
Reluctantly, Max returns to France while things in London at his job are unsettled. He intends to sell the vineyard, but will he? This question becomes colorfully complicated when one of Uncle Henry’s illegitimate children comes to visit. But who is this shapely youngster? And could she stand in the way of Max selling the vineyard?
Mysteries abound on the old French home front. The wine produced there initially appears to be undrinkable. Thus, the sales price is depressed. And Max finds himself smitten with a local woman who works in a café near the vineyard. Meanwhile, Max is placed on some kind of probation while his last lucrative stock deal is investigated. This leaves Max time to clean-up the decaying mansion, remembering past events vividly along the way.
And, in the process, Max’s heart might melt a little in classic fantasy fashion; he might become a better man. Although the title is catchy from a marketing perspective, the actual story takes place over a period of days rather than a year. And in this short time, Max’s and the other characters’ lives will be changed for years to come.
Crowe is awfully good in a youthful role that permits him to not have to deal with really dark issues. In Year, he’s not a captain of an embattled warship, a sword-wielding warrior from yesteryear, or a downon-his-luck boxer looking for one last fight payday as a fantastical opportunity at redeeming glory. No, here the versatile Oscar-winning actor plays a rich single man whose life is incomplete. And through ordinary events, this character is faced with choices, both of which seem appealing: (1) Return to London and resume his life as a rich playboy, or (2) Stay in the French countryside, romance a woman, and make wine.
I don’t give this film too much credit in looking deeply into the psyche of today’s 30- something’s. Other than the fact that Max is a master of the stock market, he is really not particularly remarkable. Like many young booming professionals around the world, Max has let his frothing ambition to become a prodigious financial success impede his ability to find contentment away from work. And that contentment must involve sharing his life with another.
Crowe last worked with Director Sir Ridley Scott in the Oscar-winning Gladiator, and Year gives Scott a chance to depart from big films to make a little romance. His film adaptation of Eric Garcia’s Matchstick Men was a fascinating picture. This time, both he and Crowe deliver a straight-forward, old-fashioned romance that is light and refreshing. And it has a potent message in these times.