It's not entirely clear what director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe were trying to accomplish with A Good Year. If the frequent collaborators wanted to prove they were capable of making a sentimental comedy, they've done that well enough. But A Good Year is so different from their typical interests that it begs the question: what drew them to the project in the first place? Crowe plays a merciless British trader discovering his humanity among the vineyards and local color of Southern France, and he does so with his usual competence -- even showing a knack for physical comedy. But such a frivolous diversion, from two such serious heavyweights, feels even less substantial than it would in other hands, almost like they're slumming. As Crowe drives through the countryside in a comically small Smart car, needling French bicyclists by shouting out "Lance Armstrong!" and flipping them the bird, it seems like he and Scott are stealing pages from the playbooks of other broad culture-clash comedies, which audiences might have assumed were beneath them. They've made a perfectly decent addition to a genre in which "perfectly decent" is usually good enough. One good reason to see A Good Year is the charming performance by future Oscar winner Marion Cotillard as Crowe's love interest -- even though, it should be said, he doesn't do enough to deserve her, and her long disappearances from the narrative call into question screenwriter Marc Klein's structural instincts. While viewers will undoubtedly find themselves seduced by the marvelous French countryside, they shouldn't use that as a reason to over-praise this particular film's vintage.
by Derek Armstrong review