Still, climactic or not, the movie is full of enough gentle charms to make it as eminently watchable as it is forgettable. Russell Crowe displays a delightful and quite unexpected sense of comic timing as his acerbic character tools around the French countryside in a Smart car, dispensing cheeky quips and arrogant putdowns in equal quantities. (You have to wonder whether Smart are pleased that their vehicles have become a universal cinematic symbol for silliness.)
Crowe is joined by a marvellous supporting cast, with Tom Hollander doing some particularly good work as Max’s weasely best friend. Didier Bourdon brings depth and humour to what could easily have been a caricature, investing his wine maker with scruffy charm and genuine emotion. Look out for the delightful Archie Panjabi as Max’s PA - a talented actress who’s slowly but surely working her way into the mainstream.
The major female roles, while slightly underwritten, are as much of a feast for the eyes as the (regrettably few) dinner scenes. It may not be politically correct to cast women based on looks, but it certainly is effective. Of course if you’re Ridley Scott, then you get to have your cake and eat it by recruiting beauty and talent. Both Marion Cotillard and Abbie Cornish rise above the fluff to portray fully three-dimensional people.
However lovely the cast may be to look at, the countryside should be the real centrepiece of any movie set in the Luberon. Sadly, as with the food, Scott pays far too little attention to the natural beauty around him. Oh, sure, there are plenty of pretty shots, but he spends too much energy on giving the film a kind of hazy golden halo. It’s as though he’s taken his signature visual style – the bold details and striking clarity - and simply dipped it all in a rich syrup. The effect, while strangely comforting, is more distracting than effective.
International critics have savaged the film, calling it flimsy, predictable and strained. This seems like an overly harsh attack on such a cuddly and unassuming little movie. Yes, it’s not exactly original. Yes, we’ve seen better jokes. And no, it’s not going to win any awards for dramatic intensity, but this is a romantic comedy for goodness sake!
Perhaps these critics are saying that even the great Ridley Scott should know his place: “You’re a swords-and-strife man Ridley – steer clear of the fluff.” And they seem to have gotten their wish. Scott’s forthcoming projects are all about guns, gangs and other manly pursuits. We’d do well to savour this confection, however sugary and undercooked it may be. Scott may have gone a little soft, but you can bet he won’t be showing us that side again any time soon.
- Alistair Fairweather
By the looks of A Good Year, the guys that brought us Gladiator have definitely gone a bit soft. But you can't help but enjoy this cheeky, whimsical little comedy.
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Hands of Stone is a bland, unlikable portrayal of a real-life boxer that struggles to hit the highs of Rocky IV let alone Raging Bull or the original Rocky. Mark this one down as “for boxing fanatics only”. Read More »
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