A Good Year

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WATERED-DOWN Crowe gets stuck in the shallow end.
WATERED-DOWN Crowe gets stuck in the shallow end.

Time Out says

Ripe with a bouquet of bumper-sticker platitudes, Ridley Scott’s travelogue-cum-life-lesson leaves the sort of sickly sweet aftertaste that makes you want to crawl out of your skin. As a boy, Max (Finding Neverland’s Freddie Highmore) spent summers on a French vineyard with a winemaking uncle (Finney). Fast-forward to his adult self (Crowe), who’s turned into a greedy rotter who calls his banking employees “lab rats.” After inheriting his uncle’s estate, the ugly Anglo travels back to Provence and steps into a minefield of Proustian madeleines: Hey, there’s where the old man taught the lad how to play tennis and appreciate a good cigar! The money-obsessed Max can make a mint on selling the place, but a local waitress (Cotillard) and a long-lost cousin (Cornish) implore him to stop and smell the ross. Will he stay or will he go? Do you have to ask?

Scott’s movies usually emphasize set design over storytelling, but this time, the director is content with a visual palette of simplistic color scheme—cold grays for mean ol’ London, warm golden tones for the Gallic Garden of Eden—and provincial landscapes. That’s dandy, assuming he also has a narrative up his sleeve that does more than recycle inner-child maxims and paint a retrogressively quaint picture of postcard France. He doesn’t. Plus, Scott has the gall to treat the film as if he were imparting deep wisdom; just because strawberry Kool-Aid is red doesn’t mean it’s velvety syrah. Put a cork in it already, Sir Ridley. (Opens Fri; Click here for venues.) — David Fear

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