For a Provençal-flavoured slice of cinematic escapism, you can’t beat A Good Year. This guilty pleasure of a film serves up an idealised tale that would charm the culottes off any committed Francophile.
The plot, based on a book by Peter Mayle, centres on ruthless investment broker Max Skinner, who inherits his uncle’s château and vineyard in Provence. He heads down to Luberon all set to sell the place to the highest bidder, but falls in love with the old house – and with a local waitress.
Matters are further complicated when his uncle’s hitherto-unheard-of illegitimate daughter turns up. Skinner is quick to realise that her very existence threatens his stake on the estate.
Critics weren’t overly complimentary about the film when it was released in cinemas back in 2006.
Australian Russell Crowe, who plays Skinner, came in for some very harsh criticism in particular. Many felt he had been miscast in the role. However, his accent was flawless and, as anyone who has ever seen him in films such as The Sum of Us can attest, he has a softer side.
“The French scenes were shot within just a few miles of director Ridley Scott’s home. For him, I suspect it was a very good year”
I suspect critics’ ire was aimed more at his character: Skinner is thoroughly unlikeable. Although his circumstances change over the course of the film, we see little evidence that he himself does.
Better reviews were reserved for Marion Cotillard as his love interest and Albert Finney as his uncle.
For many viewers, the film offered a form of wish fulfilment fantasy.
Interestingly, all of the French scenes were shot within just a few miles of director Ridley Scott’s home. With no commute and surrounded by the southern French countryside, for him, I suspect it was a very good year indeed.