|Cliché alert: Russell Crowe is a slimy stock trader who learns about life and love on the vineyard in Ridley Scott’s A Good Year.|
| A Good Year |
Dir. Ridley Scott; writ. Marc Klein (screenplay), Peter Mayle (book); feat. Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Abbie Cornish, Marion Cotillard, Tom Hollander, Freddie Highmore (PG-13)
These man-boobs, often hidden with little success behind V-neck sweater vests and other strangely unfashionable attire, lumber their way through Parisian settings more beautiful than even Crowe’s stunning co-stars, Aussie Abbie Cornish and the very French Marion Cotillard. They accompany him, too, as his character Max Skinner — a slimy stock trader who once was a very adorable Freddie Highmore — travels from the gray, urban “hell” that is London to Provence, where he is to inherit a chateau and small vineyard from his recently deceased uncle Harry (Albert Finney), the only person Skinner has ever loved. Crowe’s man-boobs, in fact, might be more impressive than either of their female co-stars’. Okay, seriously, what the hell has happened to Russell Crowe? And what the hell is he doing taking a role that should’ve been played by Hugh Grant in a romantic comedy that should’ve been directed by Richard Curtis (you know, if it wasn’t so godawful).
Here’s the basic premise, in case you can get past the man-boob thing. Skinner, you see, is a total douche in the way stock traders are always douches in movies; money-hungry, soulless, self-obsessed, he’s everything we should want to hate. Of course, this is Crowe we’re talking about, and his considerable charm and thuggish winks help us overlook that. Skinner, though, has a problem: His Uncle Harry left him this multi-million-pound chateau, which he’s got to unload before Harry’s illegitimate American daughter Christie (Cornish) can figure out what he’s doing. If that’s not enough to keep him busy, he also has to deal with an uppity vigneron (sort of a Master of the Vines) and seduce the most unseduceable girl in town, Fanny Chanel (Cotillard). Oh, oh, and if that’s not enough, he also has to find the humanity he left behind years earlier in this beautiful corner of the world.
This might be the most pedestrian script Crowe has ever chosen — a startling low point in a career filled mostly with highs. The only elements that elevate it are the strength of the performances and Scott’s authoritative direction. It’s almost as if Ridley knows you’re going to try to sneak out of the back of the theater, and keeps kicking you in the ass in order to keep you ahead of him, where he can make sure you don’t bolt. A Good Year would be a good movie, or at least an OK one, under lesser circumstances, but when Crowe and Scott — not to mention a set of man-boobs in desperate need of a sports bra — are involved, you just expect something, you know … more.