Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Good Year

Ridley Scott, 2006 (8.0*)
Who could have imagined Oscar® winners Russell Crowe and sensational French actress Marion Cotillard in a romantic comedy? Apparently action director Ridley Scott did, who is best known for Alien, best picture winner Gladiator, and Blackhawk Down. Even though this is just plain fluff, it's enjoyable and heartwarming enough for most fans to get over any initial trepidation. I believe it is based on Peter Mayle's novel "A Year in Provence", though no one credits that book, which was previously filmed as a British mini-series.

The film begins with Crowe's character Max as a young boy, played by Freddie Highmore (who was much better in a more demanding role in Finding Neverland in 2004), an orphan who is living with his uncle Henry, played with a gusto for wine and women by Albert Finney, at the latter's French chateau in Provence, complete with a vineyard. Henry doesn't balk at educating young Max on what it takes to enjoy life, and produce a fine wine, as well as how to taste one.

We immediately jump to a grownup Max, who is now a callous, cutthroat bond trader in London, with no time for Henry, vacations, or a relationship. When he gets the news of Henry's death, he grudgingly goes to the chateau to see what state it's in so he can quickly sell it and come back to work. However, he unexpectedly meets and falls for local restauranteur Marion Cotillard, who unabashedly bares her bottom in public [photo rt] to show him a bruise caused when he unknowingly ran her off the road on her bicycle as he fumbled with his GPS while hunting for the chateau.

What follows is an affable (and more classic film style) story with a great supporting cast, especially Didier Bourdon as Francis, his vigneron, his irascible elderly father, his terminally cheerful wife, and his hilarious Jack Russell terrier, Tati, who takes an immediate dislike to Max, first biting his leg, then peeing on it. An unknown, illegitimate cousin also shows up, surprising everyone, the cute and sexy Abbie Cornish, who also has "quite a nice bum", as all note; of course, the skeptical Max suspects a goldigger who heard of Henry's demise. Of all the characters in the story, only Max wants to sell the chateau.

Don't expect much here but entertainment, beautiful scenery, and fine wine and French food; unfortunately you can't sample the latter two unless you bring your own. Scott and Crowe surprised me with their subtle handling of comedy, which is gentle and never over the top, except perhaps an early scene when Max is trapped in the bottom of an empty swimming pool. All in all, "very easy on the eyes", and the brain.

Perhaps I'm a sucker for Marion Cotillard; I could watch her cook or just sit still and be perfectly happy. I think she is the best actress since Meryl Streep, and can certainly sing and dance a lot better, as she proved in La Vie En Rose (winning an Oscar® for actress and 18 other awards) and Nine. She also won a French César for supporting actress in A Very Long Engagement. I just did a post on her life at World's Best Films, calling her "the actress of the century". For my money, there is no finer combination of beauty, talent, and sex appeal alive today.


daphne October 14, 2010 at 1:48 AM  

Alternately, you could do your laundry, which would be just as exciting and possibly more dramatic.

José Sinclair October 14, 2010 at 8:24 PM  

not all good films are 'dramatic'
but I like the laundry comment - the only drama there is if my outgoing water line will be stopped up from roots..

sometimes you just need simple entertainment - I've been watching too many serious foreign films, like holocaust, war, and orphan stories (Kapo, The Italian, The CHildren of Huang Shi, A Very Long Engagement).. sometimes a film is better in context w others you've just seen.

besides, I think MARION COTILLARD is the "perfect woman" and actress of the new century (27 acting awards already at age 34) - I could watch her sitting still and be happy!

.. EL, the J-man..

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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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