Isn't Ridley Scott amazing?
The man who directed 'Blade Runner', 'Alien', 'Thelma and Louise' and 'Gladiator', to name but a few, has brought us a tender romantic-comedy which is utterly, utterly different from anything he has done before.
In a character completely different from 'Gladiator', Russell Crowe is a sardonic and cut-throat London financial trader who apparently is to inherit his uncle's wine-growing estate in France where he grew up. Visiting it with no purpose other than to sell it, he gradually falls in love once again with the place, with the people, and with a young cafe-owner called Fanny Chenal.
'A Good Year' has some charming bits of fun -- driving a Smart car in France, trying to get out of an empty swimming pool, scorpions causing the foreigners to panic -- but it is ultimately a character comedy about a man rediscovering himself. Some of the underlying Ridley Scott trademarks are there -- immaculately staged visuals, confident use of time which enables him to explore details as the plot gradually builds -- but they are used for a completely different purpose. There are no grand concepts of honour, revenge, the fight to survive, or saving the human race, nor are there the stark contrasts between character and situation. Equally, while many of Scott's worlds are utterly remote from our own (war-torn Africa, Columbus's Spain, the far-future in space), this one is so close to home that you can almost imagine getting into a car and driving into the script. And, while many of his films are directed on a gigantic scale, 'A Good Year' is intimate and reflects the two tiny worlds of Provence and London's Square Mile.
'A Good Year' did not immediately impress the critics. But neither did 'Blade Runner', nor a number of other Ridley Scott films now considered to be classics. I've watched it twice, in the space of a few days, and I fully expect to watch it three or four times more.