Bottle Shock

"Good"

Bottle Shock Review


Though it's hard to believe, over 30 years ago, wines from continents other than Europe (and countries other than France and Italy) were considered crap. Not less palatable or uncertain in quality: Boone's Farm meets Thunderbird. Uncivilized swill. Of course, this wasn't true. Napa Valley, as well as regions in Australia, were creating wonderful vintages. But since the French controlled everything about the culture of the grape, their disdain meant no one took outsider vineyards seriously.

In 1976, all that changed. During the year of America's Bicentennial, a British merchant working in Paris came to California looking for participants for his exclusive tasting competition. He hoped to raise awareness of his failing shop and solidify his place in the snobbish wine society. Instead, winemonger Stephen Spurrier made history, and his accidental discoveries sent international palettes into something akin to Bottle Shock. Now, decades since the U.S. became part of cultured world cuisine, director Randall Miller offers up a serio-comic take on the event, and for the most part, it's as tasty as a well-aged Burgundy.

When we first meet the Barrett family -- father Jim (Bill Pullman) and son Bo (Chris Pine) -- they are on the verge of bankruptcy. While their Chateau Montelena creates fantastic wines, no one outside the locals knows about them. The market is wholly owned by the Europeans. Hoping to learn something about life in a vineyard, college intern Sam (Rachel Taylor) arrives. She quickly befriends Bo and his buddy -- and secret winemaking savant -- Gustavo Brambila (Freddy Rodriguez). Meanwhile, Spurrier (Alan Rickman) is desperate to keep his snooty store afloat. On the advice of expatriate Maurice (Dennis Farina), he creates a competition to find the best wines in the world. But once he arrives in the U.S., the connoisseur is surprised at the quality of work -- especially coming out of the struggling Barrett business.

Since we know the outcome in advance (American labels are now famous all over the globe) Bottle Shock has to get by on character and charm. It wants to balance the last fleeting days of '60s hippy hedonism with the intricacies of successful vinification to champion an uber-USA nationalism. Director Miller relies on the breeziest kind of nostalgia, a wistfulness where all problems are punished by a healthy dose of positive mental attitude and an era appropriate song or two. He gives us both sides of the Barrett dilemma -- a dad too serious to see beyond his failures and a son too surfer-dude to take anything (except sex) seriously. Together they form the yin and yang of a narrative that avoids any major pitfalls on its way to American enological supremacy.

Rickman is required to be the slapstick stranger in a strange land here, to use his stiff upper Brit wit as ballast for what is otherwise the standard comic snob. Riding around in a beaten up junker may sound funny, but someone with this actor's undeniable talent deserves a tad better. Similarly, Pine is poised as part Jesus, part joke, a Merlot messiah unable to see his value to his parent or to their particular grape. He has to be pushed into action, and when he does, he has a novice's brand of luck. Many of the plot points here feel too pat, as if the screenplay is scooting over the more troublesome facts of the real-life events.

Still, thanks to its inherently interesting subject matter (who knew our efforts were so abhorred prior to '76?) and the genial demeanor of the cast, Bottle Shock becomes a satisfying, if slightly syrupy entertainment. It's not to be savored so much as sipped and sampled for what it is.

More Ripple, sir?



Bottle Shock

Facts and Figures

Run time: 110 mins

In Theaters: Friday 19th September 2008

Box Office USA: $3.9M

Box Office Worldwide: $4M

Distributed by: Freestyle Releasing

Production compaines: Intellectual Properties Worldwide, Zininsa Film Production

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 48%
Fresh: 57 Rotten: 61

IMDB: 6.9 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Randall Miller

Producer: Jody Savin, Randall Miller, Marc Lhormer, Brenda Lhormer

Starring: as Steven Spurrier, as Bo Barrett, as Jim Barrett, as Gustavo Brambila, as Sam Fulton, as Maurice Cantavale, Hal B. Klein as Shenky, Jean-Michel Richaud as Maitre d', as Joe, Kirk Baily as Loan Officer, as Pierre Tari, as Professor Saunders

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Hampstead Movie Review

Hampstead Movie Review

Deliberately appealing to older audiences, this undemanding comedy-drama comes with a hint of social relevance...

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

Advertisement
My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.