A Good Year
Audiences love to see a grumpy rich guy getting a good lesson on what's really important, and that's why movies like A Good Year will be forever popular -- no matter how many times we've heard the story.
In this telling, a hotshot trader, Max Skinner (Russell Crowe), begins his day dumping bonds and then repurchasing them a few minutes later from the beleaguered market -- at a steep discount. The obviously questionable transaction nets him a seven-figure profit, and reinforces his greedy tendencies.
However, the power broker is forced to stop and take a breath when word arrives from France that his Uncle Henry (Albert Finney) has died. During his childhood, Max spent a great deal of time with the kindly man who had no children of his own. But family relationships haven't been on the corporate ladder-climber's mind for quite some time, and now his only concern about the chateau and vineyard he has inherited is its monetary value.
Yet his trip to the Provencal countryside to survey his newfound claim proves to be just the ticket for the hardened business tycoon to take a moment's pause in his life journey. Although the property turns out to be a bit of a fixer-upper, Max can't help feeling the charm of the neighborhood or noticing a possible romantic interest in the quaint village up the road. As well, there is a caretaker (Didier Bourdon) who regularly begs him not to sell the property. Max's uncertainty about what to do with his future only gets worse when he receives news he has been suspended for his earlier trading practices. Suddenly he has even less reason to return to London's hectic pace.
The usual positive messages about getting life's priorities straight are evident in abundance in this script. Sadly, so are a collection of profanities, including two uses of a sexual expletive and a finger gesture, along with other crude terms for and conversations about sex.
Artistically, the film does work some magic within the last couple of acts. Max's recognition of what he chases versus what he really should be reaching for, seem sincere and reasonably believable, especially in a telling scene where his big city boss raves about an original masterpiece he keeps locked in the vault. While the two admire a reproduction of the artwork Max thoughtfully asks, "When do you ever look at the real painting?" The parallel to the protagonist's life is clear, and sends a valuable message to all of us who keep the best moments of life locked away.