Today is Ridley Scott's 74th birthday. In his 34-year-long film career, he has been elevated to the status of living legend. And why not? He's the man behind such classics as Alien, Blade Runner, Thelma and Louise, Gladiator and Black Hawk Down. But I think that there's one of his films that is underrated among most. Why? It is Ridley Scott's *only* out-and-out comedy, A Good Year.
Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott have had a long and industrious relationship as actor/director. Starting with Gladiator, Crowe became an international superstar with his famous line, "My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius. Commander of the Armies of the North. General of the Felix Legions. Loyal servant to the true Emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife – and I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next". After A Good Year, Crowe and Scott made three films together in a row: American Gangster, Body of Lies and Robin Hood (with only American Gangster being the clear box office success). In fact, Scott's next film, the eagerly-awaited Prometheus (his first in 3D), will be his first film without Crowe in 5 years. Crowe has also worked alongside notable director Ron Howard in A Beautiful Mind and Cinderella Man. Crowe's newest film, Man of Steel, features him taking up the mantel of Superman's father Jor-El (previously played by Marlon Brando). But going back to A Good Year...
Young Max Skinner (Freddie Highmore) grew up during the summers living with his Uncle Henry (Albert Finney) and his vineyard in Southern France. Henry teaches the boy how to treasure the finer things in life, especially fine wine. As he gets older Max (Russell Crowe) has forgotten the lessons his uncle taught him and has become a greedy stock trader, mistreats his staff and Gemma (Archie Panjabi), his personal assistant. One night, Max comes home to find that Henry has passed away and left him his lavish estate and vineyards. Planning to make a quick turnaround on the property, Max heads down to Provence to take a look around. After falling into the dilapidated swimming pool, Max meets Fanny Chanel (Marion Cotillard), a local woman he falls in love with. The more time he spends at his Uncle Henry's home, the more the past starts catching up with him. As the lessons his Uncle Henry taught him return, Max is shown a life more peaceful than he ever imagined.
In some ways, the film plays out as a European romantic comedy version of A Christmas Carol (but smarter than Ghosts of Girlfriends Past). I applaud Ridley Scott for wanting to play in a genre he hadn't before (as Martin Scorsese just did with Hugo). But the audience just didn't show up. In America, the film only made $7 million - $40 million less than Scott's previous film, Kingdom of Heaven. Even so, I quite enjoy this film for being a turn of pace for Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott.
NOTE: Happy Birthday, Ridley Scott! Thanks for reading - Zack