Time: 118 mins.
SYNOPSIS: A British investment broker inherits his uncle's chateau and vineyard in Provence, where he spent much of his childhood. He discovers a new laid-back lifestyle and a lovely, local waitress as he tries to renovate the estate so it can be sold.
BOTTOM LINE: One can hardly blame Crowe and Scott for wanting to step away from their usual manly, action-packed pursuits and make a film that requires them to spend months in the South of France drinking and talking about wine. While they're able to set a lovely mood, this film shows what a vacation it was for them more than a true cinematic enterprise. Despite being a favorite with the ladies, Crowe isn't exactly a charmer and he barrels through the romantic scenes with Cotillard like a bull in a china shop, failing to grasp, for much of the film, why a lowly waitress would want nothing to do with a rich, intelligent, attractive man like himself. Certainly, that's part of the film's conceit – can't just have the beautiful people falling for each other in the first frame – but, for once, he doesn't seem to care enough about this character to put much effort into it. This film was my first introduction to Cotillard and she not only caught my attention, but kept it, making me wonder who she was. Without her spark and charisma, this film would be a total waste of time.
The scenes of Crowe's childhood as played by Highmore and Finney are almost more enjoyable than those of him as an adult. It's clear that Finney and Highmore and having fun and they make a great connection that gives the film much of its heart. Highmore is one of the most natural child actors I have ever seen and one can only imagine how good he's going to be as an adult. The plot plays out much as you expect: selfish businessman finds the meaning of his life after spending time amongst the vines and discovering why this property was so important to his uncle. Sure, winemaking is hard work, but at least it's not as tedious and boring as being a broker. What a surprise that his desk job lost its' appeal. Not only does he uncover a new passion, but he finds true love and the meaning of friendship and family. It's not exactly a "lightbulb moment" but that's all the film's got to give. A pleasant experience with some lovely locations and decent performances that doesn't make you think too hard or feel too much.