RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
The last time director Ridley Scott and actor Russell Crowe got together, the result was the Oscar-winning action epic Gladiator. They've teamed up again now for the very different A Good Year.
Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.
KENNETH TURAN: It's easy to figure out why director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe were happy as can be to make A Good Year. What's harder to come up with are compelling reasons to see it.
Director Scott owns a vineyard in the area of Provence, where A Good Year is set, and is a good friend of Peter Mayle, who wrote the original novel. This shoot, the director says, was one of my most pleasant experiences. And star Crowe, who got to live in the area for two months, says I loved waking up in Provence.
No one is begrudging these hardworking movieland professionals some time in the sun. But it would have been nice if more of the pleasure they experienced translated onto the movie screen.
A Good Year is set in French wine country, but it's best described as small beer. The scenery and the cast are attractive, but something vital is missing from this all too leisurely film.
The same can be said about the hectic life of protagonist Max Skinner played by Crowe. Our Max is a London investment banker, a manipulator of markets who tells his minions, we're not here for the dental plan. But guess what? A Good Year is one of those ever-popular movies where impossibly rich people like Max turn out to be incapable of enjoying the simple things in life. As if.
Max takes what he thinks will be a few days off to check out a vineyard and chateau left to him by his favorite uncle Henry, played in flashback by Albert Finney. But then he has an all too predictable cute meet with the most beautiful woman in town - he nearly runs her over - and all bets are off.
The fact that we know exactly what will happen to Max from the moment he appears on screen is not what's wrong with A Good Year. After all, we go to films like this precisely because the satisfaction of emotional certainty is what we're looking for.
What we're not looking for is a romantic comedy made by individuals with no feeling for the genre. If Scott was, in his own words, looking for an excuse to come back to France to shoot a film, it's a pity he didn't hold out for a project that would please audiences as well as himself.
MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan is film critic for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.
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