A review of “A Good Year” by Jeanne Aufmuth


Stars: **

Rating: PG-13 for language and some sexual content

Run Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes



How do I love Russell Crowe? Let me count the ways. Tossed phones and temper tantrums do nothing to damper my quixotic enthusiasm. That said I can’t (or won’t) blame Crowe for this hackneyed romantic comedy whose timeworn clichés have aged as badly as screwtop wine.

Present day London, the corporate fast track. Max Skinner (Crowe) exists on an adrenaline high of buy and sell, the golden boy financier for whom millions is mere pocket change.

Then voila!, a bit of Max’s ancient history rears its ugly head – a beloved yet long-lost uncle (Albert Finney as Henry) who has “drank and shagged his way to a lonely and loveless end” has also left a crumbling wreck of a French chateau and its attending vineyards to his absentee nephew.

Max -- callous and insensitive to the end -- smells a profit and wants to unload the place for maximum dollars despite the pleadings of the chateau’s demonstrative Vigneron (Didier Bourdon). Enter the surprise American daughter (Abbie Cornish) who could spoil the sale and you’ve got yourself a twisty little vino-soaked comedy. Or at least the makings of one.

Need I go on? With excess tannin on the brain Max falls under the spell of the aging patina of Provence and memories of a bygone era. Not to mention sexy bistro waitress Fanny Chenal (Marion Cotillard) who disapproves of Max’s speedy treadmill of a life.

Ridley Scott (that’s Sir Ridley to you and me) is hardly known for his comic chops and the fit is uncomfortable despite Peter Mayle’s breezy fiction as its source material. “Year” looks great – lush and sensuous as only the French countryside can – and the lost art of savoring life casts a subtle spell. But trite scripting (at its worst) and an overwrought soundtrack (at its most deafening) overwhelm the narrative with prosaic rather than poetic results.

Crowe hardly saves the day but he’s easy on the eyes and brings an engaging lunacy to the table, reminiscent of his turn as mad genius John Nash in “A Beautiful Mind”.

To quote a classic cinematic oenophile….quaffable but far from transcendent.