Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Good Year

Watched a grrrrreat movie last night. Not really new, but then not terribly old either. I don’t suppose we classify a movie made in 2007 as ‘old.’ It’s one based on a 2005 book of the same name by Peter Mayle, A Good Year, and has a wonderful cast including Russell Crowe, Marion Cotillard and Albert Finney.

The movie begins in the south of France, in the wine producing region of Provence, in what is described as a vintage year. That translates as the childhood summer of Max Skinner (Crowe), a time twenty-five or so years earlier, when the future high rolling investment banker spent his summers with his Uncle Henry (Finney) learning about things like winning and losing. Fast forward twenty-five years and meet the grown up Max in London, orchestrating high yield but slightly shady trade bonanzas. He’s at the top of his game, something of a jerk, and has been out of touch with his Uncle Henry in Provence for the last ten years. But then comes a letter informing him of his uncle’s death, and the fact that he is heir to the chateau and vineyard in the south of France.

There are a few minutes when Max reflects upon his uncle, his childhood summers and his failure to even once contact his uncle over the past years, but that doesn’t last and he begins making plans to sell the property and get back to making millions in London. But it doesn’t quite work out that way, and therein lies the story.

I understand that the critics didn’t like this movie, seeing it more as a lightweight and miscast paean to the scenic beauty of Provence. I disagree with that notion and found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable, beautiful-to-look-at movie with a mostly believable storyline, and one or two very good performances. Albert Finney, in what is a series of flashback vignettes is wonderful, and the two French actors, Didier Bourdon and Isabelle Candelier as the vintner and his housekeeper wife are both delightful. And of course, there’s the ravishing Marion Cotillard as Fanny, the love interest.

Add to that the directorial expertise of Ridley Scott, who very rarely in my opinion gets too far off track, and whose well-tuned work rapport with Russell Crowe is obvious. I like a powerful and deeply layered story with thought provoking issues as much as anyone, but there are those times when I want to flop back on the sofa, watch a rather lightweight comedy with pretty scenery and handsome/beautiful actors, be moved in some small way, and at the end walk away with a smile on my face. A Good Year did all of that for me.

One last comment—the soundtrack is terrific and includes Nilsson, Charles Trenet, Josephine Baker and Tino Rossi. Listen to samples here.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America