Attempting romantic comedy, Sir Ridley Scott conquers neither. A Good Year is the greatest miscalculation in a career that includes Hannibal, but Scott's motivation for adapting this insipid holiday porn may be explained by (a) his desire to rest between the heavy lifting of Kingdom of Heaven and the forthcoming American Gangster; (b) the proximity it would afford to his 11-hectare estate in Provence; (c) it was his stupid idea in the first place.
Crowe is all smiles for once.
Max Skinner (Russell Crowe) may be out of a job, but all is not lost for our haut-bourgeois hero! A letter, lately delivered from a notary in Provence, bears news of an inheritance from his departed uncle Henry: the shabby-chic chateau where Max summered as a lad, vineyard, caretakers, and clichés included. Such is the setup of Peter Mayle's source novel, the perfect diversion for misogynistic investment bankers whose personal assistants neglected to pack the new issue of Vanity Fair in their Vuitton weekenders.
Pretty people do lovely things in picturesque locales rendered weirdly oppressive by the filmmaker, as Max struggles to enjoy the simple life. Crowe's performance is humdrum yet palpably relaxed, at least when he isn't made to talk with a mouthful of crackers in some tragic attempt at levity. A Good Year just about peaks in comedic invention when a Jack Russell terrier named Tati pees on Max's loafer. Scott can do mayhem, dystopia, and the rampaging alien (extraterrestrial, android, Somali, Demi Moore) with the best of them, but the breezy touch is not his forte. NATHAN LEE