See Max (Freddie Highmore). See Max play. See Max play with his uncle Henry. (Albert Finney.) See Max play chess. Play, Max, Play. See Max cheat at chess. Max is a sweetheart, and a bit of a bastard. See Max grow up. See Max (Russell Crowe) work. See Max artificially manipulate stock prices to make a multi-million-dollar killing. See Max work the room in a victory lap. Work, Max, work. Max is a bastard, and only a little bit of a sweetheart. See Max learn that Uncle Henry is dead. See Max go to France. See Max learn. Learn, Max, learn!
A Good Year, directed by Ridley Scott, isn't a children's story. It might as well be. Based on the novel by Peter Mayle, A Good Year is the perfect movie to find yourself watching on a plane: It's glossy and full of glorious furnishings and clothes and people. You could look from the screen to the Sky Mall catalog and not skip a beat, visually. Or get up from your (business class) seat, freshen up, and not feel like you'd missed anything when you sat back down to nibble at the hot nut sampler and the movie.
Apparently, director Scott and Mayle are longtime friends, which is about the only reason I can imagine Ridley Scott directing this material; it all seems a little gentle when weighed against Scott's resume of bloody, brawny recent action epics (Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven). It used to be you could recognize a Ridley Scott film by the presence of smoke, rain and Venetian blind-lined rooms; recently, it was by the presence of a large horde of attackers pitted against a small group of leads. A Good Year seems a little too delicate a soufflé for Scott, who seems to be more of a meat-and-potatoes director. That's not to say we don't get a little of that old Scott magic: When the film early on has a spiraling, seamless camera pan circle in a perfect 360 around two characters, you don't know whether to be impressed by the shot or a little sad because it's all to capture the kinetic majesty of two people playing chess.