Good Year, A (2006)

Rated: PG-13 for language and some sexual content.
Length: 118 minutes
Grade: A-C-AA=A
Budget: $35 million
Box Office: $49 million (7 U.S., 35 Intl., 7 DVD)

Written by: Marc Klein (Serendipity, Suburban Girl), Based on the novel by Peter Mayle
Directed by: Ridley Scott (Body of Lies, American Gangster, Kingdom of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, GI Jane, Thelma and Louise, Black Rain, Legend, Alien, and possibly the greatest science fiction movie of all time, Blade Runner)
Starring: Russell Crowe, Marion Cotillard, Albert Finney, Abbie Cornish, Tom Hollander, and Freddie Highmore.

When a high-powered British investment banker’s favorite uncle dies and leaves him his entire French vineyard, he must decide whether to sell it and return to the world of high finance or stay there and embrace the lifestyle he so loved as a child.

Entertainment Value: A-
As a contrast with Duplicity, this is wonderful. Max Skinner is Wall Street’s Gordon Gecko, only he’s been blessed with an upbringing to turn back to when he realizes how far off the right path he’s gone. Every character in this movie is fascinating and compelling, even the ones you don’t like. Crowe, in particular is wonderful, and this movie falls squarely into my very favorite category of film: philosophical character transformation stories.

Superficial Content: C-
Drugs/Alcohol C+, Sex/Nudity C-, Violence A-, Language C-
The whole movie revolves around wine, which is often consumed. There are a couple of sexual situations, and some incidental brief nudity as well as sheer clothing. Language is at the upper end of the PG-13 range, but not quite an R. PG-15 might be right.

Significant Content: A
The pace of life is a major factor in being an ethical person. Slowness makes you better, quickness makes you worse. In addition, character and happiness go hand in hand. Vacations are essential. Vineyards and wine are important elements of a good life. People can change, if only they can experience the benefits of the better thing long enough to have a real comparison available to them.

Artistic/Thought Value: A
This is a movie which artfully exposes you both to the idea that a slower pace is good and also asks you to occasionally experience it during the movie. Unlike movies that are based on books and try to criticize the long term effects of replacing books with movies, this movie actually does what it tries to get you to value.

Discussion Questions:
~Max is given a second chance to consider staying with the vineyard because of a series of unfortunate events in the beginning of the movie. Have you ever had a misfortune become a blessing to you in this way?
~To what degree are the character defects we see in Max at the beginning of the movie a byproduct of the fast-paced world in which he lives? Would you say it’s generally true that high-stress, high-pace living makes us worse people? Are people who live in rural environments made better by the simple slowness of their existence? How would you connect modern technology such as television, email, texting, and Twitter with this problem? How would an evolutionist describe this problem? How would a Creationist describe it?
~Pace of life is an important concept in this movie. What implications does this have for both our regular lives and also for our vacations from the regular?
~Which do you think is better for children in their upbringing: an urban setting or a rural setting?
~Proverbs tells us that if we train up a child in the way he should go, when he’s old he won’t depart from it. How is this relevant to this movie?
~Have you in your life learned more from your successes and victories or from your failures and losses?
~“Where there’s land, there’s war.” What do you think of this assertion?
~What makes us like Max? Is it our hope that he will become the better man he can be? What does it say about God and human nature that we want to see people become good?
~Do you think this movie would be persuasive to high-powered executives, or would they scoff at it?
~Do the “commoners” in this movie seem to be happy in what they’re doing? What does that say about the objection one might raise that only the wealthy can have enough luxury to enjoy something like a vineyard? How much of their happiness comes from being able to tangibly see the result of their efforts, unlike so many occupations in the modern world?
~Is the premise of this movie realistic? Does that matter? Would it be fair to describe this as a fairy tale? What is the value of idealistic movies?

Overall Grade: A
I really enjoyed this. A fine effort from Russell Crowe and Ridley Scott.

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