- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

“A Good Year” is a light comedy based on travel writer Peter Mayle’s (“A Year in Provence”) best-selling book a curious choice for Ridley Scott, a director far better known for gritty science fiction (“Alien,” “Blade Runner”), historical sweep (“Gladiator”) and martial themes (“G.I. Jane,” “Black Hawk Down”).

—As it turns out, Mr. Mayle is one of Mr. Scott’s longtime cronies, and, supposedly, the two conceived the novel’s highly successful concept together. Perhaps the director should have walked away there and quit while he was ahead.

The film’s plotline follows Max Skinner, a power-hungry British banker whose business and boudoir credos coincide: It’s all about the numbers, baby.

This is the quintessential Hugh Grant role

although, strangely, it’s filled by Russell Crowe.

Shortly after conducting a series of particularly lucrative but controversial bond trades (which later will get him in hot water) Max learns that his estranged Uncle Henry (Albert Finney) has died, leaving Max his vineyard and chateau in Provence. Max spent his boyhood summers there while the benevolent Henry imparted erudition on wine, chess and the functionality of a nice blue suit. Audiences glimpse these sweet memories through flashbacks.

—The financier hopes to unload the property quickly for a few million, although matters become more complicated on all fronts — when he goes to visit. In London, the authorities have begun investigating Max’s business practices and possibly could suspend him. At the vineyard, problems are creeping in like English ivy: The house is filled with scorpions, and its walls are cracking like eggshells; the wine tastes bad; and the vigneron (or vine-tender) is adamant about staying with his vines, making the real estate sale much more difficult.

—Max’s souffle receives its final death blow when a mysterious American girl comes knocking on the door, saying she’s Henry’s daughter.

Luckily, the bad boy facing bad news becomes distracted by one Miss Fanny Chenal (Marion Cotillard). She has class, sass and you know. Max finally scores a date with her and brings along a mysterious bottle of wine he has found in the chateau’s cellar. Fanny informs him that it’s quite trendy and pricey but that no one knows where it’s made. (You can see where this is going).

Max’s past with Henry and present with Fanny ultimately will force him to re-evaluate his goals: Is he all about the cheddar, or will brie do just fine?

At almost two hours…sted more than; OK’d by Danny Scott plenty of opportunity to showcase his splendid eye for the shot. However, it starts to feel languorous — less a sexy getaway to France than a Thanksgiving holiday with your relatives in Buffalo, N.Y. The odd family of characters isn’t bringing anything new to the table, and you’re full way before the end. It was “A Good Year,” but it could’ve been “A Great Month.”

*1/2

TITLE: “A Good Year”

RATING: PG-13 (Boudoir scenes and mild language)

CREDITS: Directed by Ridley Scott. Screenplay by Marc Klein based on the book by Peter Mayle.

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes

WEB SITE:

www.agoodyear .com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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