| The Red Right Hand
A GOOD YEAR
Ridley Scott is a genius, there’s no doubt in my mind about that; the only problem is the blind loyalty he shows to his friends – that and he’s coming down with Lucas Syndrome. Having befriended Peter Mayle, author of A Year In Provence, he decided to adapt his book for the big screen; despite the existence of an adaptation – a rather successful TV mini series released in 1993, starring John Thaw. For those that don’t know, Peter Mayle is an ad executive who moved out to France and has been prattling on about it with various books for years now, nagging the English to sell their country cottages and renovate some dilapidated barn in the South of France. With the rehash of migration flicks and travel writing, Scott has decided it’s the perfect time to make his contribution. He’s also at that age where the idea of settling down in some quiet corner of the Riviera wouldn’t oppose him greatly. The actual premise behind the film is a little bland but has immense room for potential. What could possibly go wrong? Ah, loyalties again; this time in the form of the ever delightful Russell Crowe. I’m not opposed to the Crowe, he can be extremely entertaining in many pieces. On the other hand, he is still a loud, pug-faced New Zealander who acts like a dopey drunken Australian. As I said, I have great respect for him and his works but he does have a tendency to let himself down every now-and-then. This is a good example, actually. He is so poorly miscast; you could have cast a small mountain goat from Peru and it would have pulled off a grumpy Brit with greater accuracy. I think Crowe’s biggest flaw is that his grumpy Brit impression is Scott himself – which is fine but not necessarily relevant for the part.
Moving on to the film itself, the story tells of a ruthless, cranky investment broker, Max Skinner [Crowe] whose beloved uncle and childhood friend, played by Albert Finney, has died. Max flies out to France to view the property, in the hope of selling it and making a neat pile of cash. As he walks the old grounds he reminisces, haunted by memories of tennis, cigars, chess and cricket. Pushing it all to the back of his mind, Max goes ahead with the sale. Only three small problems stand in his way:
- Max has taken a fancy to one of the local waitresses, Fanny [Marion Cotillard] - which is about as deep and interesting as a Renault Clio advert
- the vineyard worker, Francis [Didier Bourdon] is kicking up a fuss over the sale of the house
- and, more worryingly, an American girl [Cornish] turns up claiming to be Henry’s daughter (therefore heir to the estate) Oh, the drama.
By the end of the film, Max is presented with a simple alternative, either he takes a full partnership in the successful stock company, earns a lot of money and has a lot of sex with various women or he lives in the successful estate, making expensive wine, earns a lot of money and a lot of sex with his newly acquired French girlfriend. So, let’s just weigh that up. England holds success, money and sex whilst being able to retain his cranky nature as an inner-city employee. On the other hand, France holds success, money and sex whilst being able to retain his cranky nature as a Brit living in France; yep, tough choice.
Naturally, the film looks beautiful and does credit to Scott’s magic eye; even if he does play on the heart strings by showing dreary, rainy London then cutting to beautiful sunsets in Provence. A few characters crop up unnoticed but the real core of the troubles is with Crowe and the desperately lacking comedic elements - there are a few moments that make you smirk but that’s really about it. Most of it seems to be excuses for Anglo/French jokes about sports, cultural differences and petty things that we’ve been spatting about for the last six or seven hundred years; we’re uptight, tasteless prigs and they’re arrogant, smelly frogs – I’m alright, I’m half English/half Irish, so I can freely comment on both. The best way to summarise the whole experience would be to compare it to wealthy friends, do you know the type? The ones who go off to exotic places for months at a time then come back with a tacky key ring and a bundle full of irritating stories about how “you just have to go” and how beautiful it is, over there, compared to this rat race! The second they’re out the door, you sling the tat in the bin and murmur about how much you hate them to anyone who will listen. No? Is that just me? Ah well. Despite this, it will probably do well with mid-40’s Brits who want to get away from it all.
27th October 2006
The Scene To Look Out For:
Watching the Cohibas slowly and gently pillowing blue-grey smoke? Either that or seeing a grey, rain-soaked London. I have very little interest in the South of France or it’s countryside, that’s one of my youngest brother’s aspirations, not mine.
Finney’s portrayal of the old rascally Uncle Henry is endearing enough to keep you trundling through. His relationship with the young Max is a little odd and it’s almost as if he’s grooming him into the annoying little oik that he grows up to be. I think the reason I liked him the most was the fact that he annoyed me the least and, surely, that’s as good a reason as any.
In A Few Words:
"Irritating and arduous to watch, the Scott/Crowe combo proves its clear inability to cross genres"