Thursday, August 9, 2012

A Good Year (2006) [PG-13] ****

Young Max Skinner (Freddie Highmore) was only a boy when he spent summers with his uncle Henry (Albert Finney). Uncle Henry owned La Siroque, an estate with a chateau, vineyard, tennis court and swimming pool, where Max learned about winemaking, tennis and chess. However, after Max went to university in England, the years went by and he stopped visiting his uncle and La Siroque.

Now Max (Russell Crowe) is a ruthless bond trader in London, walking a fine line between legal and illegal trades, and growing quite wealthy in the process. One day he receives a letter from an attorney in Provence. Uncle Henry has died, and with no will, Max seems to be in line to inherit the estate. But will he maintain the estate and keep vigneron Francis Duflot (Didier Bourdon) and his wife Ludivine (Isabelle Candelier) on to manage the vineyards and produce the wine, or will he sell, as his realtor friend Charlie (Tom Hollander) expects? And when Christie Roberts (Abbie Cornish) arrives from America and claims to be Henry's long-lost illegitimate daughter, is she for real, or simply an enterprising con artist? And, finally, when Max meets and falls in love with bistro owner Fanny Chenal (Marion Cotillard), will he, at last, come to appreciate the legacy his beloved Uncle Henry has left him?

This is a thoughtful, character-driven romantic comedy-drama based on a novel by Peter Mayle, an inventive screenplay by Marc Klein, masterful direction by Ridley Scott, terrific performances from the entire cast, especially Highmore, Finney, Crowe, Bourdon and Cotillard, gorgeous cinematography and a fine musical score. A Good Year is the film that A Walk in the Clouds had the potential to be, so if you enjoyed that earlier film, expect to be thrilled by this one. 

Blogger's note: While critics were generally luke-warm toward A Good Year, my favorite professional film critic, James Berardinelli, embraced it, awarding it *** out of 4 stars. Personally, I award the film **** out of 5 stars.

"I enjoy making wine because this sublime nectar is quite simply incapable of lying. Picked too early, picked too late, it matters not. The wine will always whisper into your mouth with complete, unabashed honesty, every time you take a sip." (Albert Finney, at the film's 3:20 mark)

Labels: comedy, drama, romance, winemaking     
Internet Movie Database 6.9/10     
Metacritic 47/100     
RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=48, viewers=66)
Wikipedia A Good Year (film)
Gordes, Provence, France

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