Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Good Year

Review by Michael Jaffe

Rarely can I say that I am a sap. I loathe and openly mock romantic comedies, heartfelt family films and Russell Crowe. But when a film takes the most predictable story line of all, casts Russell Crowe in the lead and sets it in France, a country which, I must say, is not really my favorite, the obvious prediction is that the only thing to put me in a good mood is the end credits. How wrong I was. A GOOD YEAR, Ridley Scott’s break from epic pictures, sets Mr. Crowe as a money grubbing, English asshole who goes to France to claim his uncles chateau, and learns a lesson about life in the process. Its as run of the mill as you can get. As I started the film up, I rolled my eyes because you have Ridley Scott, the guy who made BLADE RUNNER and ALIEN and GLAIATOR and BLACK RAIN, making a small picture about life lessons. But while the scope of the film may be small, it hits its mark as neither a comedy nor a drama, but simply a charming little film with moments of both.
While it didn’t really hit many of the emotional chords that it was aiming for, the acting and cinematography was superb. It was as if I was watching UNDER THE TUSCAN sun again but actually liking the movie! Russell Crowe doesn’t really do much in the role other than hit every line just right. The flashback scenes, that have to his childhood, feature Albert Finney, who could whistle for two hours and I wouldn’t be able to blink, as his Uncle Henry and the time young Max, played by Freddie Highmore, spend together. Freddie Highmore does a most excellent impression of Mr. Crowe. The true star of the picture though is Marion Cotillard. Now everybody’s sweetheart after winning the Oscar for her portrayal of Edith Piaf, here she takes a simple role and really doesn’t do anything extraordinary with it. The incredible part is that while as Ms. Piaf she covered her beauty, her it shines so bright. While gorgeous, charming and truly endearing in the role of Max love interest, I can’t help but get slack jawed at her very appearance on screen. She truly is a joy to watch.
The second most beautiful thing in the film is the southern French countryside. Mr. Scott must really have a love for where they shot because while London is shot as a dark, lonely industrial city, the countryside is all warmth and nature. As someone who has been to the south of France and stayed in a chateau, all I could think about was how it was exactly as I remember it. And that is what this film really boils down to; a very beautiful and predictable love. While unrealistic and truly fantastical in its spendor sometime, all I wanted to do afterwards was listen to Yves Montand on vinyl on the veranda of my chateau with a beautiful woman, a handsome cigar and a bottle of the deepest red wine I can find. 7/10

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