Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wrong vintage

Another movie from the shelves of the L.A. Library system.

A Good Year (2006)

Maximus Decimus Meridus the Gladiator (Russell Crowe) is a sleazy bond trader in London. Well he’s sort of sleazy – what he does at work might be illegal and he seems to go through hot women like a starving person with two forks at an all you can eat buffet, but he does it with a twinkle in his eye. He’s more playful than disgusting.

Max (his character’s name is Maximillian) gets word that he has inherited his Uncle Albert Finney’s French chateau and winery. So to escape his latest bond trading shenanigans, he spends a week in whine country, pining for his lost adventurous youth (when he was played by Freddie Highmore) and the eccentric man who raised him after his parents died.

Max soon meets French hottie Marion Cotillard, who run a little bistro (who in France DOESN’T run a little bistro). Zaniness ensues as Marion hates Maximus because he almost ran over her in his tiny wheelbarrow-sized rental car while she was out bicycling. She should be grateful he didn’t run her through with his sword in the arena!

There are a couple of zany characters, namely Duflot the man who tends the vines and his wife Ludivine, who makes a mean croissant and knows a thing or two about scorpions. Rounding out the cast is Indian/British hottie Archie Panjabi as Maxie's assistant/den mother/Mission Control Chief Gemma and Aussie hottie Abbie Cornish, playing a hot (see the theme wit wimmen?) American chick that may or may not be Albert Finney’s illegitimate daughter and, therefore, the true heir to his estate. One funny recurring bit was whenever Max drives past a French bicycling team on the road, he yells out, "Lance Armstrong!," much to their French chagrin.

Through it all, Maximus the Gladiator soon learns to enjoy chateau winery living, stop being a mixed up zombie, and of course love Marion Cotillard.

This is all pretty slim pickin’s. I wanted to see what Mr. R-Rated Dramatic Movie, Ridley Scott, would do with a romantic comedy. The movie is as light as a croissant, but doesn’t have the layers. I think Maximus the Gladiator, or rather, Russell Crowe, has mellowed more than a bit after he got married and had a child. (He would have tackled this role a lot differently if he took it on right after L.A. Confidential.) Also it was odd to watch a Ridley Scott movie that didn’t have a night scene where the air was thick with smoke and shafts of light.

Leave this on the shelf and rent Gladiator instead. Croissants are optional.

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