Take Russell Crowe, throw in a vineyard and a French chateau, toss in a beautiful, hot-headed woman, stomp it to a mush in a big wooden tub, and you get A Good Year, the latest directorial effort of Ridley Scott -- a film with all the subtlety and bouquet of a screw-top bottle of wine purchased in the bargain bin of your local supermarket. In A Good Year, adapted by Marc Klein from the book by Peter Mayle, we meet Max Skinner (Crowe), a super-rich businessman with a slightly shady moral code -- think of him as Gordon Gekko, but with less charm and personality.
Max is all about making money, whatever the cost; he barrels his way through life, stomping ruthlessly over anyone who gets in his path. Max doesn't care about anyone or anything, unless there's a profit in it -- until the day he hears that his Uncle Henry (Albert Finney) has died, leaving him the charming-but-dilapidated vineyard and chateau in France where Max spent his boyhood.
Of course, Max has to go to the chateau himself to handle details like taking pics for his real estate guy, so he can unload the place as quickly as possible -- right in the middle of a scandal involving a questionable stock transaction that could finally land his butt in a sling. Max goes to France reluctantly, in part because he hadn't stayed in touch with dear old Uncle Henry -- the man who was, ostensibly, the most important influence in his life -- for years. Once there, he must deal with Francois, who has run the winery for Uncle Henry for decades, and who fully expects Max to keep things going as they have been. When Francois learns that Max intends, as the sole surviving heir, to sell off the chateau to the highest bidder, he is understandably annoyed and contrives to make the sale as difficult as possible by convincing Max that the vineyard and its grapes are worthless. If this doesn't sound like the most original or exciting idea for a film starring Crowe, well, you're right -- it isn't.