A Good Year/A Walk in the Clouds (2 Discs) (Widescreen) product details page

A Good Year/A Walk in the Clouds (2 Discs) (Widescreen)

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It's not entirely clear what director Ridley Scott and star Russell Crowe were trying to accomplish with A Good Year. If the frequent collaborators wanted to prove they were capable of making a sentimental comedy, they've done that well enough. But A Good Year is so different from their typical interests that it begs the question: what drew them to the project in the first place? Crowe plays a merciless British trader discovering his humanity among the vineyards and local color of Southern France, and he does so with his usual competence -- even showing a knack for physical comedy. But such a frivolous diversion, from two such serious heavyweights, feels even less substantial than it would in other hands, almost like they're slumming. As Crowe drives through the countryside in a comically small Smart car, needling French bicyclists by shouting out "Lance Armstrong" and flipping them the bird, it seems like he and Scott are stealing pages from the playbooks of other broad culture-clash comedies, which audiences might have assumed were beneath them. They've made a perfectly decent addition to a genre in which "perfectly decent" is usually good enough. One good reason to see A Good Year is the charming performance by future Oscar winner Marion Cotillard as Crowe's love interest -- even though, it should be said, he doesn't do enough to deserve her, and her long disappearances from the narrative call into question screenwriter Marc Klein's structural instincts. While viewers will undoubtedly find themselves seduced by the marvelous French countryside, they shouldn't use that as a reason to over-praise this particular film's vintage. Derek Armstrong, All Movie Guide

Cynics beware: A Walk in the Clouds is a voluptuously photographed exercise in romanticism that may seduce viewers away from their hard-bitten outlooks. Director Alfonso Arau (Like Water for Chocolate) gives the movie a soft-focus sweetness that might seem marshmallow if not for the work of Giancarlo Giannini and the late Anthony Quinn. Playing Alberto, the stern Mexican father of the lovely Victoria Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Giannini spits the fire and resentment of a wounded dragon outraged at the sudden, suspicious marriage of his daughter to American ex-serviceman Paul Sutton Keanu Reeves. Giannini and screenwriters Robert Mark Kamen and Mark Miller infuse Alberto with the deep emotional pain of someone who loves his family's traditions and hates their collapse. Romance and romanticism are never easy, so Alberto's pain grounds the emotional reality of the movie, as does the innocence displayed by Reeves and Sanchez-Gijon. The tug of war between Alberto and the other principals gives Quinn a chance to shine; he captures just the right tone of whimsy and wisdom as the family patriarch who knows it will work out well in the end. Nick Sambides, Jr., All Movie Guide