A Good Year

...but not a good movie.

This isn't the sort of picture I'd usually pay to see. But I was in Ashland, Oregon, my wife was working at a concert that night, and I had nothing else to do, so I trotted down to the local theater, paid my seven bucks (cheaper than a matinee in Los Angeles), and watched this inoffensive junk.

The plot: an arrogant financial trader (Russell Crowe) learns that his beloved uncle died and left him a gorgeous winery in the south of France. He decides to sell it so he can make millions, but when he goes down there to clean the place out... well, a six-year-old could guess where this story is going. But in case you need help in predicting whether Max will find his soul again, a beautiful local woman (Marion Cotillard) is thrown into the mix.

Ho hum.

Who's to blame for this unwitty, uncharming film that tries so desperately to be witty and charming? I'll point the finger at Ridley Scott, who also produced. As the scoop goes, he actually came up with the story for this film, then hired author Peter Mayle to turn it into a novel, from which the film was then adapted. (Sounds backwards? Kevin Costner pulled a similar trick with Michael Blake and Dances With Wolves.) The result is glib male fantasy that could only be cooked up by an old, obscenely wealthy European. Who else would expect audiences to sympathize with an ultra-rich boor who inherits an enormous and absolutely beautiful French chateau? Gee, poor fellow, I really hope things work out for him.

Aside from its elitist tone, the film suffers from a lack of humor. This is the first time Scott has tried his hand at romantic comedy. Surprise: he shows no flair for either romance or comedy. I'm all for directors trying something different, but it's back to Alien and Gladiator territory for you, Mr. Scott.

Crowe has shown that he can handle lighter material, and it's nice to see him being non-bombastic for a change, but his character is insufferable and he does little to humanize him.

I will say that the cinematography is pretty – how can it not be, filmed during a summer in Provence? The pop soundtrack, in contrast, is wretchedly chosen.

In short, this movie's lame. Harmless, but lame.