A change of pace for both actor Russell Crowe ("Gladiator") and director Ridley Scott ("Kingdom of Heaven", "Gladiator"), "A Good Year" stars Crowe as Max Skinner, a "greedy bastard" who works as a stockbroker on the London market. After some trading activity that results in an investigation and the irritation of some other brokers, he finds out that he's inherited an estate from his late Uncle Henry (Albert Finney).
Max flies out to France to check it out and see if he can't make a quick buck or two off selling it. He arrives to find that the place has fallen apart, with the vineyards in need of care and the wine in the cellar has gone bad. As the days go by, Max starts to recall fond memories of his childhood there and starts to become accustomed to the slower pace and peace and quiet of the area. He also falls for a local: Fanny Chenal (Marion Contillard). For a bit of conflict, he also meets Christie Roberts (Abbie Cornish), who has arrived, claiming to be Henry's illegitimate daughter.
Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott are certainly not names one would expect to be involved with a breezy little comedy/drama, but they do manage to pull it off reasonably well. While Crowe will certainly never be considered a top comedic talent, he gets through the film's few goofy moments in a satisfactory manner and believably plays the changes in the character over the course of the picture. Crowe and Contillard also have pretty good chemistry. The film's lovely visuals, relaxed feel and fine performances manage to make the picture pass by reasonably quick, as well.
This is slight material, to be sure, but it worked for me. I liked Crowe's performance (although admittedly, this is certainly not the actor's best work) and Scott manages to make rather thin material engaging and a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.
VIDEO: "A Good Year" is presented by Fox in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. While the film often has a slightly soft appearance by intent, the image still remained detailed and clear, showing off the beautiful locations in France quite well. Some minor artifacting was spotted in a couple of scenes, but no edge enhancement, print flaws or other concerns were seen. Colors looked beautiful throughout most of the film, appearing warm, bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns. The colors in the London scenes are intentionally subdued. Flesh tones also looked accurate and lovely.
SOUND: The film's Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation, as one might expect from this sort of material, is quite front-heavy, with little for the surrounds to do aside from provide some slight ambience and reinforcement of the score. Audio quality is fine, with a crisp, rich sounding score and clear dialogue that suffered from no distortion or other concerns.
EXTRAS: "Postcards from Provence" is a mixture of audio commentary and featurettes, and offers comments from director Ridley Scott and writer Marc Klein. The commentary track provides an interesting discussion of the development of the material (Scott is friends with novelist Peter Mayle, whose book the picture is based on), filming locations, character details, visuals, working with the actors and more. Klein throws in some notes about working with Crowe and Scott, developing characters and some tidbits about specific scenes. Klein does spend a bit too much time heaping praise on everyone involved, but Scott remains interesting and straightforward. The behind-the-scenes featurettes are enjoyable and offer some great production footage and interviews. There are about 24 minutes worth of featurettes woven in with this feature; the film alone is about an hour and 57 minutes. This feature is about 2 hours and 21 minutes.
We also get a very short promo interview with Scott and Crowe, 3 trailers for "Good Year", trailers for "Kingdom of Heaven", "The Illusionist", "Master and Commander" and "Sideways"; 4 TV spots for the film and 3 music videos for the film starring Russell Crowe.
Final Thoughts: "A Good Year" is slight, to be sure, but it worked for me. I liked Crowe's performance (although admittedly, this is certainly not the actor's best work) and Scott's direction manage to make familiar material engaging and a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality and a nice set of extras. A recommended rental.
The Film B