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  Year of the Comet Wine And Grine
Year: 1992
Director: Peter Yates
Stars: Penelope Ann Miller, Tim Daly, Louis Jourdan, Art Malik, Ian Richardson, Ian McNeice, Tim Bentinck, Julia McCarthy, Jacques Mathou, Arturo Venegas, Chapman Roberts, Nick Brimble, Andrew Robertson, Shane Rimmer, Nicholas Ward Jackson, Wilfred Bowman
Genre: Comedy, Thriller, Romance, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  4 (from 1 vote)
Review: Margaret Harwood (Penelope Ann Miller) is surrounded on all sides by idiots. Idiot men, at that, who believe because she is a woman that she doesn't really know much about the world of wine and wine tasting, when in fact she is very knowledgeable indeed, having propped up the multi-million wine trading business of her father (Ian Richardson) for over a year now. So what thanks does she get? Absolutely none, and today as her brother (Tim Bentinck) does her down once again and the patrons of the tasting she has arranged don't take her seriously, and one man, Oliver Plexico (Tim Daly) is so boorish that she wonders why he is there at all, it's all too much and she walks out...

But daddy is there with a propostion to save the day and make Margaret feel wanted for a change: simply travel up from London to Scotland and assess a wine cellar in a castle there. Thus the scene was set for, well, for a turkey at the box office and a movie its writer, the legendary William Goldman, just didn't want to talk about. He had high hopes for this quasi-Hitchcockian caper, but those hopes were based around a script he had penned back in the seventies, about the time Cybill Shepherd was about to star in a remake of The Lady Vanishes, and that went about as well as pastiche as Year of the Comet did, i.e. it fell flat on its face. Yet you could see where he was coming from.

The romantic thriller is a genre that gave way to a variation on the action movie as established in the eighties, and while there were some hardy souls who tried to revive its more traditional form, by that time everyone thought you couldn't have a bickering couple falling in love in a suspense plot without at least a few explosions going off at some point, and this example was assuredly not that kind of experience. What it turned out to be was a lukewarm revival of plot points from an earlier age mixed with innovations introduced by Goldman that suggested his usual sure touch had deserted him; it wasn't quite Dreamcatcher level, but it was fairly hard to swallow as a thriller, even of comedy variety.

Mostly that was thanks to it not being that thrilling, with artificial situations abounding, including an unwise degree of coincidences and unbelievable plot twists that did the aims no good whatsoever. Once Margaret has arrived in Scotland, which at least offered the chance for some lovely scenery for the characters to act out against, she finds in that cellar the 1811 bottle of wine (from the year of The Great Comet) that is worth millions and sets about taking it back to London, easier said than done when first, the current tenants of the castle are torturing a scientist for his growth hormone formula (his what?) and the landlady she is staying with has ordered her son (Nick Brimble) to steal the bottle and murder both Margaret and the newly-arrived Oliver, who is present because his boss (Shane Rimmer) is keen to purchase it.

Not helping was this air of unreality that never convinced any of these folks were actual, living, breathing people and not plot points in an unbelievable premise who had to behave the way they did because they were referring back to a Golden Age of Hollywood where this kind of thing opened at the box office every month. Louis Jourdan in his final role was the main villain, and while he was enthusiastic it wasn't the best part to go out on, and his desire to be younger with the hormone almost tipped this over to science fiction territory, though it more aptly fit into adventure flicks where the MacGuffin was going to be quasi-fantastical. Not that this had any effect on the rest of the story, it was simply crowbarred in when necessary, as meanwhile our hero and heroine moved towards a romance that never took off thanks to a lack of chemistry between goody-two-shoes Margaret and keeps going on about back pain Oliver. This was fine for a quiet Sunday when you didn't want to think too much, but it kept reminding you of how far from its goals to be breezy and charming it was: lower expectations and you'd get by. Music by Hummie Mann (who seems to believe Scotland and Ireland are interchangeable).
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Peter Yates  (1929 - 2011)

British director with some range, originally from theatre and television. After Summer Holiday and Robbery, he moved to Hollywood to direct Bullitt, with its car chase making waves. There followed The Hot Rock, The Friends of Eddie Coyle, Mother, Jugs & Speed, The Deep and touching teen drama Breaking Away before he returned to Britain for the fantasy Krull and The Dresser. Spent most of his final years working back in America.

 
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