In 1976, Steven Spurrier, a sommelier in Paris, comes to the Napa Valley to take the best he can find to Paris for a blind taste test against French wine. He meets Jim Barrett, whose Chateau Montelena is mortgaged to the hilt as Jim perfects his chardonnay. There's strain in Jim's relations with his hippie son Bo and his foreman Gustavo, a Mexican farmworker's son secretly making his own wine. Plus, there's Sam, a UC Davis graduate student and free spirit, mutually attracted to both Gustavo and Bo. As Spurrier organizes the "Judgment of Paris," Jim doesn't want to participate while Bo knows it's their only chance. Barrett's chardonnay has buttery notes and a Smithsonian finish. Written by
The real Jim Barrett, owner of Chateau Montelena, appears in the film as a vineyard owner who pours a wine sample for Alan Rickman. Mike Grgich, the real-life winemaker at Chateau Montelena (and the man who was most responsible for the award-winning 1973 Montelena Chardonnay), appears in several scenes at the chateau, standing next to Bill Pullman as he takes a wine sample from a barrel. See more »
When Spurrier leaves the tasting fee under the ashtray and the owner picks it up, it is a new style bill with the large numbers which were not in use until the nineties. See more »
[voice-over during a vineyard pan]
It wasn't always like this. Before Paris, people didn't drink our wine. I mean, my friends did. But you could hardly consider their palates discerning...
Hell, we were farmers... sort of...
[pan to empty bottles of Montelena label and several early twenties/late teens smoking hookah]
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Pullman, Rickman, and Rodriguez are stellar. A nice break from all the summer action.
The ensemble dramedy is always a potentially great film, and what it ultimately comes down to is the writing, and whether or not the film is heartfelt enough for its audience to be moved. While Bottle Shock won't be winning any Oscars, it certainly accomplishes the aforementioned goals. In short, the film is very honest, heartfelt, informative, and enjoyable. It will draw its comparisons to 'Sideways' because of the subject matter and some of the characters (Bill Pullman in BS and Paul Giamatti in SW have similar characters), but what sets Bottle Shock apart is that it looks at the wine itself as a character. You care just as much about the wine as you do about the characters.
Bottle Shock may be categorized as a comedy in some listings, but I felt that this isn't right. It's more of a drama than comedy, but it does have its light hearted and funny moments, most of which center around Rickman's British man getting involved in 1970's California culture. The film does a great job of setting up an atmosphere in which we can get lost in, not to mention shows a part of the USA rarely seen. The cinematography and physical landscape of the film is beautiful. It also is smoothly edited.
The acting is always a topic of conversation in this kind of movie, and I found the film to have a lot of subtle and powerful performances, especially from Bill Pullman and Alan Rickman. Pullman's character is quite the specimen. A man who's quit his job as a lawyer (and partner of a firm) to grow grapes, essentially, and is having a hard time watching it fail. I felt that Pullman nailed the nuances and little emotions he needed to. He also had a good dynamic with Chris Pine. The restrained anger was especially well done by the veteran. Alan Rickman gives yet another interesting and intriguing performance in a part that was probably written for him. In the hands of any other actor, the character is bland at best, but Rickman gives Steven Spurrier a certain depth that makes him likable despite his snobbish attitude.
Surprising me with yet another great show after his wonderful performance in 'Bobby', Freddy Rodriguez gets a lot to chew on here. This guy has got to be one of the most underrated and rare talents in the business. I appreciated his Oscar worthy turn in 'Bobby', and he probably gives the most difficult and well done performance after Pullman. Chris Pine is acceptable, but is nothing special. Rachael Taylor has a certain likable charm about her (she has gorgeous hair and eyes), though the fact that her strong British accent slipped into her obviously fake American one a few times bothered me. Dennis Farina and Eliza Dushku are nice additions in smaller parts.
Bottle Shock certainly isn't for everyone. You won't find super huge action sequences or psychotic bad guys here, but you'll find a remarkable character study with a compelling enough story to keep a viewer interested. It is a movie that doesn't require a ton of thought, but some attention is needed. I will give our director and writer some props for keeping the movie going smoothly. It never dragged or was boring. If this one is playing at your local cinema, I advise you to give it a chance.
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