You are going to be highly disappointed if you go into Ridley Scott’s A Good Year expecting another Blade Runner or Gladiator, hoping to see something with a lot of depth. No, this isn’t that kind of film. This is Scott at his most relaxed – he has done his version of a romantic-comedy.
It didn’t work for a lot of people, sure, but it worked for me. I understood what he was trying to do, and that is to make a funny, cheerful and light-hearted romance film. In my book, he has succeeded. It’s almost like a P.G Wodehouse story done by Scott. This is one of the best feel-good films I’ve ever seen.
You don’t need to think so much; you just bask in its warmth and beauty. The last time he tried something like this – you know, where everything was hunky-dory – was in Legend, an old-fashioned romance set amidst a mythical good vs. evil story. I enjoyed that film too despite its flaws (Tom Cruise’s acting was atrocious!).
A Good Year, however, doesn’t take place in other worlds or fantastical landscapes. It is set in the most appropriate of all places to film a romance – France. Russell Crowe, who made a career out of playing tough guys, is cast against type as Max, a London-based bond trader – a prick to some – who always keeps an eye on the next big thing.
We see very early on that he was brought up by his uncle Henry (played by Albert Finney) after his parents died in an accident. Henry had a vineyard and he taught Max everything he needed to know about good and bad wine. When Max learns that Henry has passed away and has left his estate to Max, he hesitatingly takes a plane to France.
Max doesn’t seem to have much of a life despite being great at his job. For him, his uncle’s estate is just another commodity which he hopes to sell at a good price. As usual, Max gets into quite a few sticky situations and he is compelled to stick around for a while. He comes across a couple of peculiar characters and things start to get real interesting when he learns that Henry might have kept some past secrets from him.
Also, a splendid romance develops between Max and Fanny, a local café-owner played by the ravishing Marion Cotillard. One of the things I love most about Scott is his knack for filming romantic scenes. He keeps things classy and sensuous. Remember that love scene of Orlando Bloom and Eva Green from Kingdom of Heaven? or Leonardo DiCaprio’s lovely interactions with Golshifteh Farahani in Body of Lies?
It doesn’t take very long for these two characters to take things to the next level. Crowe shares a fabulous chemistry with Cotillard. Their tender and playful moments bring a smile to one’s face. Although comedy is not really Crowe’s forte, it’s nice to see him doing something different for a change. His reactions in the early portions of the film are a bit over-the-top but nothing too bad that makes you want to pull your hair out. I could stand it.
As usual, Scott’s ability to create gorgeous visuals must be applauded. He transports Crowe from the towering steel buildings and plush offices of London to the picturesque locales of the French countryside. Because of the way he has shot these images – be it two glasses of wine or the reflection of the morning sun on a pond – one feels a strong urge to take a trip to France as quickly as possible, and taste the exquisite French food and fine wine.