"A GOOD YEAR"
by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: **1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ****1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Russell Crowe as MAX SKINNER
Albert Finney as UNCLE HARRY SKINNER
Marion Cotillard as FANNY CHENAL
Abbie Cornish as CHRISTIE ROBERTS
Didier Bourdon as FRANCIS DUFLOT
Tom Hollander as CHARLIE WILLIS
Freddie Highmore as YOUNG MAX
Studio: Fox 2000 Pictures
Directed by: Ridley Scott
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Late in 2006, “A Good Year” made some buzz because it reunites Oscar winners Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott. The last time these two put their cinematic talents together, they pulled off a Best Picture win and one of the top grossing movies of the year.
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Now, they’re back together, but with a very different flavor than “Gladiator.” Rather than being the beaten-down Maximus, Crowe plays a cold-hearted daytrader who inherits a vineyard in France from his beloved but distant uncle. When he travels to France to sell the vineyard, he learns to love the simple life and finds himself.
Not only is this different from “Gladiator,” but it’s different for Russell Crowe. Normally playing aggressive, testosterone-dripping characters, Crowe settles for a decidedly more sensitive role. Perhaps it’s a desperate grab to reconnect with his kinder, gentler audience after his disastrous phone-throwing incident in 2005. After all, this really is nothing more than “Under the Tuscan Sun” for men.
I don’t think it really grabbed this audience because “A Good Year” kinda bombed in the theaters. On one hand, this didn’t surprise me. After all, it was a bit of a soft storyline and not exactly loaded with action. The Russell Crowe “Gladiator” crowd was probably pretty bored, and the weepy romantic drama crowd probably didn’t bother going because Crowe’s never quite established himself as a draw for this genre.
On the other hand, I did feel a tinge of pity for Scott and Crowe that this film had poor box office. It’s a beautifully made movie, there’s no doubt about that. The cinematography is absolutely breathtaking, to the point that I thought Philippe Le Sourd was robbed by not getting an Oscar nomination for it.
Similarly, the sets, the locations and the entire design of the film was gorgeous. Scott always gives an incredibly cinematic and picturesque look to his films, but this one is probably his most aesthetically pleasing.
In seeing the movie again on DVD, I admit that it is worth a second look. It’s much more of an at-home experience than a theatrical one. Although it’s beautiful to watch, it’s not an event for the big screen like “Star Wars.”
The DVD comes with a fabulous immersion experience. There’s more than the standard trailers, TV spots, star intro and music videos (although Crowe fans get to hear him sing as well as act in these). There’s also a feature called “Postcards from Provence.” This features behind-the-scenes footage, interviews and commentary embedded into the film itself, increasing its running time by 30 minutes or so, but giving the viewer a staggered and in-depth view o the film’s production.
For the older audience, who doesn’t mind a movie that takes its time and settles into niceness rather than ramming it down your throat, this is a decent bet. And this goes double for anyone who is into wine. Like “Sideways,” this movie has so many metaphors for the spirits that you’ll probably miss most of them. If you’re like me and drinks whatever is poured, whether it’s a perfect vintage or something bottled in a box, you’ll miss most of them.
However, if you really get into wine, you’ll find layers and layers of intricacies in “A Good Year.” The film is made with love – maybe a little too much love at time – so even if it’s a bit dull for a cad like me, it’s still a work of art.
Specifications: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Widescreen (2.35:1) – Enhanced for 16x9 televisions. French and Spanish language track. Spanish subtitles. English subtitles for the hearing impaired.