If you’d asked me last year whether I thought Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe should work together again, I would have said “absolutely.” No hesitation. We’re talking about the director and star of Gladiator, after all, and I’d love to see another epic picture from that team.
What I didn’t expect to see was A Good Year, a romantic comedy that wholeheartedly joins the ranks of the “wine is like life” camp. What’s with that, anyway? Maybe it’s time to move on to another beverage, like coffee. You know, coffee and life have a lot in common – plenty of lessons to be learned there.
But I digress. A Good Year is about Max Skinner (Crowe), a jackass investment broker, who rediscovers the important things in life after the only person he ever loved passes away and leaves him an estate in Provence. For more on the plot, check out the Pixar hit, Cars. Just who borrowed whose script is the question.
The best thing about this film is that while it’s a romantic comedy, the final 30 minutes – when most rom-coms hit autopilot – are handled very well, and while they fit the overall formula, for some reason it feels fresh.
The worst aspect of the film is the obvious attempts to be whimsical. The first moment, when Skinner arrives in France to find that his assistant has booked him a tiny Smart rental car, feels so out of place I thought it must have been some kind of joke. What I mean is, they couldn’t have seriously included this moment in the film. But they did. More similar moments follow, and while they’re not as sore-thumb as the Smart car scene, they all betray the rule of whimsy: be or be not; there is no try. Any resemblance to Star Wars is purely coincidental.
Strangely enough, A Good Year is still passingly entertaining film, at least good enough to pass some time if nothing else is on. The performances are entirely adequate, and the setting in Provence provides much in the way of beautiful cinematography. Add to that the stunning leading ladies, Marion Cotillard (Big Fish) and Abbie Cornish (Somersault), and you have some redeeming qualities.
So the film is mostly forgettable. How’s the DVD?
A Good Year is presented on a single disc, in 2.35:1 widescreen format. Overall, it does justice to the incredible scenery of the Provence estate and vineyards, but there are a few issues of note. While the colours are rich, detail is quite soft much of the time, and in a few of the darker scenes some digital noise is noticeable. There’s interesting contrast between the city scenes in London and the scenes in France, which are much warmer and more inviting. /p>
The main menu is animated and scored.
The main audio presentation is Dolby Digital 5.1, and it sounds pretty good. There isn’t a lot going on aurally, but what’s here is clear and well-defined. Dialogue is always perfectly audible, and the score and soundtrack both fill things out nicely. Additional audio options include Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround in French and Spanish.
Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
A Good Year offers little in the way of bonus material, with just an audio commentary, a making-of featurette and some trailers to enrich your viewing experience.
The commentary by director Ridley Scott is interesting, but given the subject matter is not really worth listening to. Not every film needs a commentary track, and this one falls into that category. As for the featurette, Postcards from Provence, it’s a charming little piece but doesn’t really offer much depth.
A Good Year tries hard to be special, but mostly falls flat. As for this DVD, the presentation is good, but the bonus material is lacking. At most, this is a renter.