A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that main character Max is selfish and greedy and doesn't care who he hurts to get ahead. His whole life is about making money, and he revels in the fact that he's good at it, even though people hate him. Wine and drinking figure prominently in the storyline, and the romance between two characters gets a little steamy (they flirt, tear each other's clothes off, and end up in bed), but it's nothing teens haven't seen before. That said, most teens probably won't be too interested in this one, since it focuses on more mid-life issues.
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What's the story?
Max Skinner (Russell Crowe) is a rich, selfish, high-powered London stock trader. He's not interested in slowing down -- until his Uncle Henry (Albert Finney) dies and leaves him a beautiful country chateau and vineyard in France. Max spent many happy summers there as a child, learning about life and winemaking from his wise uncle. Max hasn't been there in 10 years, but now he's forced to take time off from work to handle his uncle's estate. He plans to quickly sell the chateau and return home. But Max misses his plane and gets stuck in France, dealing with all those pesky, warm memories. Before long, he starts to soften, but he's pulled in both directions. He enjoys re-living childhood memories, but he's not quite ready to give up his luxurious London life. Complicating things are feisty Fanny (Marion Cotillard) and Henry's illegitimate daughter, Kristy (Abbie Cornish), both of whom have Max thinking about his future.
Is it any good?
We've seen this passable movie before in various incarnations -- most notably Under the Tuscan Sun, with Diane Lane in the Russell Crowe part, discovering herself in the Italian countryside. Consequently, there are no surprises here. We know what's going to happen, and we know pretty much how it's going to happen.
That said, A Good Year is a nice production (with beautiful, sun-washed landscapes) by Ridley Scott, a great director who makes audiences care about his characters, even if everyone does know how things are going to turn out. Crowe does the bad-boy-turned-good role well, and manages to keep the pace moving along fairly well. All in all, this movie is a pleasant enough way to spend a couple of hours if you're not looking for anything earth-shattering.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what's important in life: money or family? Max has lived his life solely for himself and his own gain -- how has that affected his quality of life? How can people balance earning a good living with having time for friends and family? Is it possible to do both? What kinds of sacrifices are needed? What does Max learn in the course of the movie?
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