Saturday, August 20, 2016

Movie Review: A Good Year


I just finished a trip from Lima to Minneapolis which included a kind of bizarre selection of films. One of the options was the 2006 release "A Good Year." I'd seen bits and pieces of this film on TV over the last 10 years and been somewhat curious about it because it represents a departure both for Russell Crowe (who normally does tough guy type roles) and Ridley Scott (who normally does action type movies like 'Gladiator' and 'Blade Runner'). This film is about an obnoxious banker who inherits a vineyard and predictably finds love (you can tell that from the cover). 

The first question you might ask is why would you even watch a film like this? Well, it's the type of thing that can be relaxing if you're on an airplane. Also, it's just bizarre to see Crowe in this kind of film. It makes me wonder why John Carpenter never directed something like this, he could have gotten Arnold Schwarzenegger to star. The results of that pairing would probably have been no less odd.

The film thinks it's a comedy, but it's too tone deaf. It also thinks it's kind of a charmer, but the main characters are too obnoxious. Yet, despite the fact that the film pretty much fails at everything it intends to do, it remains kind of enjoyable mainly because Crowe is always good at what he does, as is Scott. The whole film feels rather self-indulgent, like Crowe and Scott wanted to have a six month working vacation while they filmed the movie while hanging out on a vineyard. Good for them I'd like to get paid to do that too.

The thing about this film that I found most annoying was how it's such a rich guy fantasy. Crowe plays this total asshat of a banker who calls the people who work for him "lab rats" and is able to pull of mini-scams that net him 77 million dollars in a day. A couple of the reviews I read after watching the film labeled him as a "failed banker" which is just completely wrong. He's obviously a very successful banker, but the reviewers were probably too bored by the film to care about getting any of the details right (entitled prigs, whose son do I have to be to get their jobs?). 

Crowe's character finds out his rich uncle who taught him everything of importance has passed away. The rich uncle is played by Albert Finney, which is exactly the guy you want to play your "rich uncle seen only in flashbacks character." Actually, the film is worth watching just because of Finney (as are most films that are fortunate enough to have him). Finney (I'm not bothering with the character's names because the movie wasn't good enough). didn't leave a will when he died so it all goes to Crowe. 

This is where the film becomes kind of obnoxious. Crowe goes out to check out the vineyard and meets the people who have actually worked and operated the place for decades...and who really had probably "earned" the inheritance of the place. But they embrace Crowe because this is a fantasy for rich assholes. We then get a series of comedy scenes showing us how the rich guy doesn't know how to make coffee, and how ridiculous he looks driving around in an economy car...hoot, hoot.

He almost runs a young girl off the road because he's prone to texting and driving. The girls is played by Marion Cotillard who is quite elegant and charming. Well, her character is basically this local who should feel privileged to be run off the road by a texting English banker as powerful and wonderful as Russell Crowe. She resists a little bit, but the fact that she will eventually fall for him is inevitable.

I guess the problem with the movie is how tone deaf it is. When the film attempts to show nobility, it's always the privileged rich characters who get to be the beneficiaries because who cares about the poor hardworking people anyway? There's a reoccurring joke where Crowe blows by a group of French cyclists, flips them off and yells "Lance...Armstrong" which comes out as Lahnce because he's so British. They revisit this joke about three times because it represents about the peak of wit as far as this movie is concerned.

But hey, the movie is still kind of fun. Why? Because wouldn't we all like to be spoiled little rich brats who were raised by Albert Finney and inherited a multi-million dollar vineyard and got to fall in love with Marion Cotillard? Sure. People like that deserve good fortune, even when they text and drive and almost kill people they're still charming and entitled to the world.

There are days when you're in the mood for a film like this, and on those days you'll give this film more credit than it deserves. Flying from Lima to MSP was one of those days. I guess your level of entertainment will be determined by whether you identify with the workers or the spenders. Hint: it's better for the spenders.