I've seen better films, but there just is something about Russell Crowe that makes me weak in the knees thus willing to forgive him practically anything (phone throwing at a hapless hotel clerk, whining about American legal system after throwing said phone at hapless (but now richer) hotel clerk, making Americans forget Meg Ryan was once our sweetheart, and believing he can sing in a rock band…worst of all the offenses). The premise of the story is a Tom Wolfe, sort of 'Master of the Universe' character (Crowe, looking more fetching than he was in 'Cinderella Man') who works as a London stock trader. On the day he makes 77 million pounds/dollars, through borderline legal means, he finds out he has inherited his uncle's vineyard.
The movie stays afloat for awhile (and Crowe remains this kitten's meow throughout). The primary problem is that it falls into the category of books made into film without a consistent script. Too much was taken from the novel without sufficient explanation. Throughout I kept asking myself, why, what, how. There are too many characters with too much to keep track of and the film still managed to drag.
I am sure 'A Good Year' will draw comparisons to 'Under the Tuscan Sun,' which was also based on a novel and had that same fish out of water who starts living in provincial wine country element. Yet, that film worked because it stayed focused on a woman overcoming betrayal and finding herself stronger. This film doesn't work because although Crowe finds himself; he also finds an American cousin, a girlfriend, a odd French couple, and lost memories of the uncle, Albert Finney, that raised him (the movie alludes to Crowe's character being raised completely by his uncle after his parents perish and/or spending a summer/s there…that part, like so much, was confusing). It does have a love scene with Crowe which is exciting in a very YUMPSTERS sort of way!
This film also had a lot of English 'Benny Hill' style humor. While first visiting the estate, Crowe is given a very small (ozone depletion no concern with this vehicle) car. Get it? Russell Crowe (who is a fine piece of man meat) is in a really small car getting lost in the French countryside…are you holding your sides yet? They even have that sped up film funny music sequence. In my humble opinion, these sorts of scenes should be added to the Geneva Convention list of human rights offenses.
Another issue I had was that his co-star, Marion Cotillard, is in reality a good decade younger than Crowe but supposed to be the same age. In fact, the man who tends the vineyard is supposed to be older than Crowe but they seem to be in the same age cohort. None of this would really matter except we are supposed to believe, at the last minute no less, that Crowe (hot, hot, hot) and Cotillard (far from worthy of him) have known each other since they were children. This is a textbook example of poor editing in the final cut. The notion may have worked perfectly well in the book, but the sequence introducing them as children serves no purpose in the movie (in fact it draws attention that they are supposed to be the same age).
On a similar note, I also want to make mention that Freddie Highmore ('Neverland' and 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory') is cast as Crowe's younger version. Beside the fact that both have XY chromosomes, the two look nothing alike. Highmore * attention cruel child actor comment approaching * has chicken legs (walking distances must be quite trying for the lad) and will be lucky someday if he matures to the sexiness of a flat tire tread. Crowe of course is a God, thus casting a child with future dreamboat potential should have been a priority.
After the audience is starting to understand the flow of the film (the strength of Crowe's biceps was still keeping me from thinking negative review) suddenly there is an American cousin who suspiciously shows up after her alleged father (Finney) has died. She is played by Crowe's fellow Australian actor, Abbie Cornish, who has been in the news as of late for breaking up Reese Witherspoon's marriage. (Is it just me or is there an Australian conspiracy to cause heartache to American sweethearts?) What really makes this sudden insertion of a secondary character less then international film fun, is all the incest jokes that arise from the situation. On a side note, Crowe learns as a child that comedy is all about timing, I want to interject that comedy is also about knowing your audience. For most, incest jokes are only mildly amusing if people in the theater aren't wondering if the filmmakers are really going to go there.
Overall, I would suggest waiting for this film to come out on DVD or cable before viewing it….and maybe not at all if you hate Crowe. This movie does have some fun scenes and the scenery is pretty (insert your own Crowe hotness comment here) but it is too muddled with scenes and side stories that don't go anywhere. It is too bad that the script wasn't focused and the director, Ridley Scott, didn't trim the unnecessary fluff because it had the potential for working. Crowe, despite all my comments about him being eye candy, does do a good job making a semi-likeable character into a likeable one, but it isn't as if there is a lot of emotional range for him to sample either. The supporting cast is good, particularly Archie Panjabi who plays Crowe's secretary, there just needed to be fewer of them.