Last night I watched A Good Year, a movie from last year my mother and sister recommended I watch. Since I'd just been having a conversation with sovay about the classic films of Ridley Scott, I thought it couldn't hurt to see what the old boy was up to these days.
It didn't really hurt at all. A Good Year is a film rife with flaws, but they go down easily, mostly because Scott remains a brilliant photographer. Before A Good Year, the most recent Ridley Scott movie I'd seen was Gladiator, which also starred Russell Crowe. In fact, I wondered if his character in the new film, Max Skinner, was meant to be a descendant of Maximus.
A Good Year is not about the tire company, by the way. Crowe in fact plays in it a vaguely cutthroat, wealthy investment expert who as a boy played by Freddie Highmore would spend holidays with his uncle Albert Finney at a beautiful chateau in the French countryside. Max returns as an adult when he learns of his uncle's death and that he's apparently inherited the chateau. At first Max means to sell the place at the highest price possible, but over the course of the movie he learns through quiet osmosis the importance of love and hanging out with beautiful women at a beautiful French chateau, prompting him to leave his life in England of hanging around with beautiful women and making lots of money by standing around and smirking at lines and numbers.
Did I mention all the beautiful women in the movie? None of them are characters in the movie sense, but more like characters in the sexual role play sense--Marion Cotillard is Fanny Chenal, the remote beauty from the nearby village who's notoriously "choosy", a fact everyone continues to agree upon even after she sleeps with Max on the first date. There's Abbie Cornish as the banal, pretty American girl Christie Roberts who shows up to be Crowe's long-lost hot cousin. And there's my favourite--the unfortunately named but gorgeous Archie Panjabi as Max's assistant Gemma, who's always smirking with him and subtly giddy at the idea of sleeping with him.
Yet, as I said, the movie doesn't hurt. Usually bad writing makes me angry, but the photography in this film was so beautiful and the pace so leisurely, I couldn't feel worse than relaxed. I even chuckled at some of the jokes.
Maybe part of it is that Scott's style is still curiously cold, even in the context of a romantic comedy. A casual lunch conversation looks like it was filmed with eight different cameras, and we cut between angles with odd rapidity. Then there are static, low angle shots of shadowed rooms and dust in the air. This movie, I think, would have been better as a book of photographs.