Deborah Ross

Multiple choice

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Right, here is a quiz for you. As I have said, again and again, I’m fed up with doing everything around here and, as no one at The Spectator has offered to help in any way at all, I think it’s only fair that you, the readers, do some of the work. Ready? Let’s go, then. So, there is this guy, Max (Russell Crowe), a rapacious London banker who has built an empire of greed trading bonds, and he has this uncle, Uncle Henry (Albert Finney), who dies and leaves him a beautiful estate and vineyard in Provence and so Max goes to Provence, intending to sell the beautiful estate for lots and lots of moolah — what does he care? — and then what happens to Max? Is it:

a) he promptly sells up and returns to London, film over;

b) he eats a bad moule, writhes a lot and is dead by morning, film over;

c) he finds love, friendship and the true meaning of life and blah-de-blah-de-blah and is morally reborn blah-de-blah among the grapes and the lavender and those funny French people who don’t speak much English except the ones you happen to come across, who all do, which is handy?

If you answered a) I will say this: ‘I wish!’ If you answered b) then I will repeat: ‘I wish!’ And if you answered c) but then thought, no, not possible, this is a Ridley Scott film, after all, with Russell Crowe in it, so it can’t be as dull and predictable and banal as all that, I will say this: ‘Wrong!’ This film is so terrible and so boring that had it not been for Mark Kermode, the film critic, sitting directly in front of me during the press screening I’d have had nothing to look at at all. As it is, Mr Kermode’s quiffy-quaffy hair-do is quite something, even from the back. How does it work exactly? No idea. But at least it gave me something to think about.

I can’t believe that anyone could make a film like this, let alone Scott, whose Blade Runner is the only sci-fi film I think I’ve ever moderately enjoyed and whose Gladiator (with Crowe) won tons of awards and which even I could see had a lot going for it, even though I don’t usually like fighty stuff and sandals. Yet the narrative here has no drama, the characters have no depth, and everything, but everything, is telegraphed so blatantly and unoriginally it’s embarrassing. OK, try this. Max is speeding along a French road in his car when he knocks over a beautiful lady on a bicycle who gets very cross and makes fists at him. Does the beautiful lady cyclist turn out to be:

a) a mad axe murderer who gets him in his sleep; film over;

b) a man-hating psycho who cuts off his dick and then gets him with the axe in his sleep; film over;

c) the love interest, whom he eventually wins over after two of the longest hours ever known to man?

Again, it is ‘I wish’ and ‘I wish’ and ‘I know, I know, hard to believe, it sounds like a plot from Heartbeat, but there you have it.’ This film is useless all round. It’s meant to be a comedy but, alas, fails to have any sense of humour whatsoever, which is a bit of a shortcoming. Just as the script is cliché heaped on cliché — ‘I loved Uncle Henry deeply but never got a chance to tell him’ — so, too, are the gags, which never amount to more than dogs peeing on legs and American tourists complaining that menus are written in French. Oh, please. Plus, there is an endless slapstick sequence of Crowe struggling to get out of an empty swimming-pool that is so bad had it not been for Mr Kermode’s hair-do I would seriously have not known where to look.

Among the many, many, many problems this film has is the fact that, just as Scott can’t do light-hearted — or so we must assume — neither can Crowe. As such, he doesn’t so much put in a performance as a caricature. He isn’t even sexy in this. Sorry, ladies, but he isn’t. He just has this weird kind of stubble that makes him look like a coughed-up hair-ball. Anyone who had anything to do with this film should be ashamed of themselves, including Peter ‘A Year in Provence’ Mayle who wrote this rubbish in the first place. Right, last question. If you go see this movie will you:

a) laugh;

b) cry;

c) go ‘zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz’ throughout, especially if you don’t have any interesting hair to look at?

Quite. It’s not so much A Good Year as A Good Yawn (if not A Full-on Nap). Still, thanks for your help, all the same. It’s more than anyone else does for me round here. Toodle-pip!