Alone for the day as Gail had taken the kids to a distant relative, I wanted to enjoy my freedom with a DVD. A friend had lent me a Pedro Almodovar movie which had rested in my to-be-watched section rather too long. Slightly resentful that I could not watch a semi-erotic French film, I inserted the DVD in my machine.
I had no recollection of this film nor why or when I acquired it. After a few minutes I realised my error but was rather drawn into the film.
It begins in a beautiful house in Provence with Uncle Henry, the owner, drinking wine with his young nephew Max Skinner (Freddie Highfield). Albert Finney was terrific as the libidinous avuncular ex-pat. Flash forward to a City trading floor where the “grown up” Max Skinner (Russell Crowe) is executing a sell and buy back trade making a fortune.
He was the type of characters popular in films like Michael Douglas in Wall Street or later The Wolf of Wall Street. Uncle Henry dies and the house is left to Max. He leaves for Provence to sell the property but falls in love with the house and a local beauty, Fanny, a waitress played well by Marion Cotillard.
The two cultures of ruthless city trading and the slower pace of Provence are well contrasted with humour and observation.
At one stage Fanny is educating Max on waitering: “Remember the customer is always wrong”. The French do not always come out well, there is whiff of corruption about the wine production. It reminded of the great French rural movie Jean de Florette.
Sideways is probably the best wine movie ever made but the production of the Syrah wine adds another dimension to a layered film.
Certain directors work well with certain stars and the Ridley Scott/Russell Crowe is a tried and trusted combo. Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard are accomplished actors and the chemistry between the two carries the film.
There is another attractive female Abbie Cornish as Christie the illegitimate daughter of Henry. Though made 13 years ago you can detect the first stirrings of the feisty independent woman exemplified by Fanny, Max’s p/a Amanda and Christie. By contrast for all his money Max is a bit of an asshole.
By error I had watched a film which lightened my lonely mood and which was funny, well observed and well acted. Nowadays for every funny rom-com there are five grim dark films so the former genre is not always appreciate by critics or viewers. Not this one.