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A GOOD YEAR, 2006
Movie Reviews!

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A GOOD YEAR,  MOVIE POSTERA GOOD YEAR, 2006
Movie Reviews

Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring: Russell Crowe, Marion Cotillard, Albert Finney, Freddie Highmore, Rafe Spall, Archie Panjabi, Richard Coyle
Review by Stuart J. Prowse

SYNOPSIS:

A British investment broker inherits his uncle's chateau and vineyard in Provence, where he spent much of his childhood. He discovers a new laid-back lifestyle as he tries to renovate the estate to be sold.

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REVIEW:

Now here’s a quaint little movie, and one that I feel is completely underrated. It’s a slight departure from the usual fare that director Ridley Scott ~ Blade Runner (1982) Gladiator (2000) Black Hawk Down (2001) ~ normally brings us. A master of Sci-fi and Action, Romantic comedy is a genre not known as his particular forte. And the same can be said for its star, Russell Crowe. Which I suppose is why ‘A Good Year’ doesn’t fit the typical Rom/Com template.

Ridley Scott’s picture is a more assured, slightly melancholic dramatic affair. A much overlooked piece of art that is filled with great moments. And I think one of the main reasons it doesn’t get the credit it deserves is because most people just aren’t too sure what to make of it. Romantic Comedy may not be the right description for it, but as a straight drama it doesn’t really fit either. The film is Romantic and it is funny, so I’ll stick with Rom/Com.

And the story is a simple one. Crowe plays an investment banker (don’t you just love the way the word ‘Banker’ so conveniently rhymes with the word ‘Wanker’?) who inherits his uncles old vineyard in France. He then goes on to rediscover his humanity, as memories he’d buried flood back to him among the grounds he used to frequent as a child.

The pacing of the movie is wonderful. It’s a mood piece, best viewed on a cold, gloomy Sunday afternoon, with the fire roaring and a bottle of wine (of course.) The enjoyment of the flick is much determined by the right frame of mind.

And there is much to like. Crowe is in fine form here. It’s hard to imagine any other actor that could have played the despicable Max Skinner… A man that you will hate from the opening sequence, which is (admittedly) pretty damn funny on screen. But applied to reality would have you itching to smack the git in the nose, It’s a wanker… Sorry! I mean banker stunt that earns him and his company something in the region of seven million pounds. Good for his bank account I’m sure, but it didn’t make him many friends, as the letters that soon poured in proved. There’s a line in this moment that talks about a gentlemen’s agreement, and it’s a spot-on observation, for what I’m assuming is pretty much the truth about City workers. I don’t like ‘em, and definitely don’t trust ‘em. However Crowe brings just the right amount of charm to a man that you would loathe in real life, but within the context of the movie would find yourself warming to. And when he does rediscover himself, it feels right. Like it’s possible this man could indeed change his spots.

But it’s not all the Russell Crowe show. It has does have some other well drawn supporting characters, that should… If you have a heart that beats. Charm you as much as Crowe does. The flashbacks to Max as a child are particularly potent, with the very talented child actor Freddie Highmore playing the young Master Skinner, receiving words of wisdom from his uncle Henry, played by the always brilliant Albert Finney. These scenes offer much of the heart and backbone of the movie, supplying the glue that makes it work.

And then there are the girls. Two important female parts that create an impact on Max’s life. But both in totally different ways. First is the stunning Abbie Cornish, who nearly upsets the apple-cart as the distant cousin ‘Christie’ that Max never knew he had. As the daughter his Uncle Henry had never seen. And of course the true heir to the very vineyard that Max was originally intending to sell, A predicament that he needs to solve before he go ahead with his selfish plans. And the other lady turns out to be the main reason Max gets a change of heart. Marion Cotillard is Fanny Chenal, a beautiful waitress in a local restaurant who steals Max’s heart… Or makes it start to beat again, as it turns out. The rest of the cast is pretty excellent too, with some great turns from Tom Hollander, Rafe Spall and Archie Panjabi.

Basically I can’t recommend this enough. It’s a feel good movie. A life affirming little tale that shows even if we do lose ourselves along the way then it’s never to late for redemption. I love movies like this, so I was surprised by the lacklustre response that it received. It is… In my eyes anyway. A film that should be re-visited and shown the love it so obviously requires. Much like Jim Carrey’s ‘The Majestic (2001)’ It’s a magic little movie that calls for a wider audience.



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