A GOOD YEAR

DECENT ROMANCE, 2006 - 3 stars

BLAME RIDLEY SCOTT, NOT RUSSELL CROWE

Ridley Scott is an inconsistent director. He has had one overwhelming success (Gladiator), a few borderline successes (e.g., Black Hawk Down), and several cult successes (Alien and Thelma and Louise). The rest of his films, for the most part, have been disasters, including the now infamous Kingdom Of Heaven and the cult-film-wannabe Blade Runner. If you want to read everything that Ridley Scott is NOT, read his entry on Wikipedia.

His decision-making in A Good Year is across the board. He shows brilliance in choosing cinematographer Phillippe Le Sourd, who won a Satellite Award for his vision of Provence in harvest season, with a gorgeous pallet of blues and oranges. But then he seems to have lost his mind in casting Russell Crowe in the lead, an extremely talented actor who has never shown any inclination toward comedy in any film he has ever done, and who, quite frankly, lacks the vulnerability and charm to pull it off. Crowe does his best to make self-absorbed stock trader Max Skinner interesting, but fails to make him funny even once, and pretty much fails to make him romantic, even though this is a romantic comedy.

Again, Scott shows brilliance in choosing Marion Cotillard to play the love interest, Fanny Chenal; Abbie Cornish to play Christie Roberts, Max's only competition for his uncle's estate; Archie Panjabi to play Max's dry-witted assistant; Albert Finney to play Max's uncle; and Freddie Highmore to play the young Max Skinner. But then he makes strange choices in music that doesn't seem to fit the style of the film.

With gorgeous photography, Russell Crowe's talent and an attractive location and cast, it's hard not to like this film. It's just hard to laugh and just as hard to get into the attempts at romance. There is very little at stake here, and so there is very little payoff. There is very little reason to care if Max makes the right choices. We care more for the women in the film than we do for Max. Do we really want to wish him on any of them? I guess scriptwriter Marc Klein, who based his screenplay on Peter Mayle's novel, could be blamed for this. But it's a lot more fun to blame Ridley Scott.

Waitsel Smith, March 24, 2007

Text, © 2007 Waitsel Smith. Pictures, © 20th Century Fox. All Rights Reserved.

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