Gladiator II? No. Under the Tuscan Sun II? Maybe.
The post-Gladiator repairing of director Ridley Scott (Black Hawk Down, Alien) and Russell Crowe (Cinderella Man, The Insider), A Good Year, was roundly panned by critics. Although, having seen it, I'm not quite sure why.
A Good Year stars Russell Crowe as Max Skinner, the most cutthroat of all high-powered London bond traders. He lives fast and hard, making devilishly risky trades for which he is rewarded handsomely. He eats the best food, drinks the best wine, sleeps with the prettiest women, and surrounds himself in a sleek modern London of glass and steel.
When Max's Uncle Henry (played by Albert Finney) dies, Max inherits his estate and vineyard in France. He goes to Provence to settle the estate with the intention of selling it for as much a profit as possible. But its not long before the memories of Max's past childhood summers with his uncle and the temptations of the lush, relaxing Provence lifestyle start to change him.
A Good Year was billed as a romantic comedy, and I think that might be the first place it went wrong. If it was supposed to be a full-on, set piece-having, pratfall-taking romantic comedy, then, yes, it fails miserably. Frankly, it's not that funny. Yes, there are some funny bits, and yes, there is a love interest (Marion Cotillard), but that isn't even the center of the story. Nor does it seem to be asking for the laughs the way traditional comedies do.
To me, A Good Year read as more of a romance/dramedy, with an unusual tone (and fish-out-of-water journey) reminiscent of Under the Tuscan Sun. If that is the case, then it works just fine. No, the story isn't going to shake any foundations, but people talk about it like it molested an altar boy. And that just ain't right.
For my part, A Good Year kept me interested well enough the whole time. The relationship between Albert Finney (Amazing Grace, Big Fish) and talented child actor Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Finding Neverland) as Young Max was especially compelling, and made me want to have a cool older uncle that taught me about wine and how to forge his signature. And Ridley Scott directed an aesthetically beautiful piece, creating a strong visual contrast between Max's world in London and Henry's world in France. Although, how can you not make a beautiful movie when it's set in Provence?
What’s on the Disc:
A Good Year has some noteworthy extras. I could do without the trailers and TV spots (why do they bother including those?), but there is a cute little "Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott Promo" featurette with the two of them talking briefly about the movie. Scott also combined the traditional "making of" and director's commentary into the interesting "Postcards from Provence."
But the pièce de resistance is the three music videos by Russell Crowe and The Ordinary Fear of God. I've long heard that Crowe fancied himself a singer, but now I finally got the chance to see he is indeed as awful as rumors claimed. The songs ("One Good Year," "Testify," and the rancidly titled "Weight of a Man") are bad and his voice is worse. But boy is it fun to watch him marching around like Bono, taking himself all seriously in the hideous videos. Score one for guilty pleasures.