A Good Year

Director: Ridley Scott

Most of the critics reviewing the cinematic reunion of Gladiator director Ridley Scott and his star Russell Crowe quickly dismissed the film A Good Year as a male version of Under The Tuscan Sun. However, while it does share similar themes to the earlier work, A Good Year is a pleasant and entertaining movie in its own right. Based on Peter Mayle’s novel A Year in Provence, the film stars Russell Crowe as powerful, greedy, money hungry Max Skinner who leaves his native London to return to the French setting of his boyhood. Renting a smart car with a mind of its own or what he calls a “lime green roller skate,” Skinner arrives in Provence after inheriting La Siroque, the home and vineyard of his recently deceased, beloved but estranged Uncle Henry (Albert Finney).

Bound to appeal to both Francophiles and wine enthusiasts, the film is filled with Scott’s trademark bravura camerawork—quick cuts, zooms and pans sure to inspire awe and indeed, A Good Year is a visually stunning way to travel by armchair and take in the gorgeous French landscape. Although admittedly it does take awhile to get into the film because it’s mostly a solitary outing for Crowe in the first twenty minutes, not to mention a bit disconcerting to fans used to seeing the man most famous for his more dramatic portrayals in A Beautiful Mind and L.A. Confidential take wholeheartedly to comedic pratfalls and dialogue, the film and Crowe’s charm come full-circle once other characters (including the setting itself) are introduced.

Another admirable trait of the films of Ridley Scott is his fascination with strong female characters—while he is a bit of a man’s man and takes sheer delight in photographing them, A Good Year is filled with several strong-willed, independently minded, memorable women that add greatly to the plot and work their way into the hearts of the viewers.

While, like Under the Tuscan Sun, the film grows a bit more predictable as Skinner rediscovers his humanity and falls for a local beauty in the foreign land—Scott’s exquisite photography and eclectic, inspired soundtrack choices (see below) provide a much needed sense of whimsy to the film that make it highly amusing romantic fare that should appeal equally to both sexes.

The DVD features some wonderful extras including an entertaining short promo interview between Scott and Crowe, three music videos by Crowe and his band, as well as “Postcards from Provence,” which is a cinematically breathtaking film-length hybrid of video featurettes with an audio commentary track from Scott and screenwriter Marc Klein.

Featured in A Good Year

“Gotta Get Up” by Harry Nilsson
Harry Nilsson - Nilsson Schmilsson - Gotta Get Up

“Jump Into the Fire” by Harry Nilsson
Harry Nilsson - Nilsson Schmilsson - Jump Into the Fire

“Il Faut Du Temps” by Makali
Makali - A Good Year - "Il Faut Du Temps Au Temps"

“Je Chante” by Charles Trenet
Charles Trenet - Greatest Hits - Je Chante

“J’Attendrai” by Jean Sablon
Jean Sablon - A Good Year - J'Attendrai

“Le Chant Du Gardian” by Tino Rossi
Tino Rossi - A Good Year - Le Chant Du Gardian

“Itsy Bitsy Petit Bikini” by Richard Anthony
Richard Anthony - A Good Year - Itsy Bitsy Petit Bikini

“40 Ft” by Franz Ferdinand
Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand - 40 Ft

Bonus Songs by Russell Crowe
(Featured on the DVD)

“Weight of a Man”
Russell Crowe & The Ordinary Fear of God - My Hand My Heart - Weight of a Man

“One Good Year”
Russell Crowe - My Hand, My Heart - One Good Year

Russell Crowe & The Ordinary Fear of God - My Hand My Heart - Testify