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Bottle Shock Bottom Line: "Rocky" for wine aficionados. By Stephen
Farber Jan 29, 2008
Sundance Film Festival
PARK CITY -- When a film opens with the title, "Based on a true story," one wonders if the filmmakers are trying to bolster a flimsy premise with claims of authenticity.
But "Bottle Shock," which had its world premiere at Sundance, enshrines an irresistible story that happens to be (mainly) true. It takes place in 1976, the year of the American Bicentennial, and in these cynical times, it is nice to be reminded of an American victory that is actually worth celebrating. This might not have been a momentous world achievement, but it was a gratifying victory all the same.
The contest takes place in the world of wine, in a time when California wines competed for the first time in a prestigious competition in France. One of the competitors was Château Montelena, a vineyard owned by Jim Barrett, who dropped out of the corporate rat race to pursue his dream of cultivating grapes. Jim is just one of the engaging characters in this tale of American hayseeds taking on French connoisseurs. Because of the wine backdrop, some will compare the film to "Sideways," but the comparisons are not really fair. This is a different kind of movie, a classic underdog tale with lots of humor and heart. With the right handling, it could be a hit on the specialty circuit.
The film begins by introducing an intriguing ensemble. In the Napa Valley, Jim (Bill Pullman) is locked in constant battle with his slacker son, Bo (Chris Pine), who works for him at the vineyard. Another worker, Gustavo (Freddy Rodriguez), the son of a Mexican field hand, hopes to launch his own label. Both of the men are infatuated with Sam (Rachael Taylor), a new arrival in town. Meanwhile, in Paris, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) hopes to revive his failing wine business by sponsoring a competition, and a friend encourages him to visit California to add a new gimmick to the contest.
The film is very leisurely in establishing all these characters -- a mite too leisurely. The first half would benefit from tighter editing. Another problem is that the characters -- the tyrannical father and the rebellious son, the snooty European wine connoisseur -- are a bit stock, and the personal stories are not as well developed as they might be. But the film keeps building in intensity, and the payoff sizzles.
As he showed in "Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing & Charm School," director Randall Miller has real affection for actors, and he brings out the best in performers who haven't always had an opportunity to shine. (Miller wrote and produced both films with his wife, Jody Savin.) Pullman has his best role in years, and he captures the fury as well as the passion of a man in thrall to a dream on the verge of collapse. Pine has enormous charm, and Rodriguez confirms the promise he showed on HBO's "Six Feet Under." Rickman also has one of his juiciest roles in recent years, and he's able to satirize British haughtiness without falling into caricature. Watch his reactions as he samples California cuisine -- first a vat of Kentucky Fried Chicken and then a glob of guacamole -- and you'll savor the mastery of a truly subtle actor. Two beautiful young actresses -- Taylor and Eliza Dushku as a ballsy bartender -- give equally winning performances.
Once the film gets past the exposition, it brings off a number of delectable scenes. A high point comes when Rickman and Pine inveigle a bunch of airline passengers to transport California wine in their carry-on bags. And the climactic competition, where the scrappy American interloper has to stand up against generations of French tradition, is as rousing as any finale you'll see this year. Cinematographer Michael J. Ozier magnificently captures the Napa countryside. This intelligent, affectionate, beautifully acted movie gives crowd-pleasers a good name.
I have to disagree with the negative comments. Of the six or so films I
saw, this one was the best. First off, it was beautifully shot. The
scenery that was captured is going to get people to visit Napa on it's
own. Alan Rickman was as great as always, and Freddy Rodriguez was
amazing. Bill Pullman's character, as the owner of the winery, had a
terrific arc. I understand that elements of the story were
fictionalized, but I come to expect that with most "based on a true
There were some great, touching scenes between the father (Pullman) and son (Chris Pine) and with Rodriguez as almost a "son he never had" type of character. Oh, and Dennis Farina nearly steals the scenes with Rickman he's so funny - I have to say nearly, because I love Rickman.
In all it was thoroughly enjoyable, and I talked it up with several other movie goers on the tram ride afterward, and EVERYONE I spoke to loved it.
While some people might immediately try to compare this film to
Sideways, that would be a big mistake. Both films might share wine as
their subject matter but diverge dramatically from there.
Bottle Shock tells an unknown story of Californian wine beating French wine in a surprise blind taste test (no one was more surprised than the French).
Having the US as the Underdog, seeing the passion of the wine makers and seeing the French being served makes this an absolutely wonderful 2 hours.
Bill Pullman was superb, Alan Rickman portrayed the quintessential snobbish Britt, Rachael Taylor was stunning and Dennis Farina was "Bacon Fat with a hint of Ripe Mellon!"
In 1976 the world of wine had mainly just one country on the map:
Quietly Californians had been making pretty good wine that no one, especially the French noticed. Until a British gentleman and oenophile, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) made a competition that changed the world of wine forever.
Entertaining, inspiring, shot on location in the Napa Valley and France, this is a delightful movie, with solid acting, beautiful cinematography and all around sparkling goodness.
Although the script has one flaw, it is for the most part very solid and the acting and directing are top notch. Bill Pullman (wine maker), Alan Rickman, and Dennis Farina (delightful American in Paris) deliver solid performances. Relatively new actors Chris Pine (son of wine maker), Rachael Taylor (love interest) and especially Freddy Rodriguez (Mexican wine maker) round up this outstanding cast.
Randall Miller, the director. has to be commended not only for creating an endearing and lovingly original movie, but doing so in a small budget, and even more taking his creation himself to several cities, after no distributor stepped out, even though the movie had rave reviews in Sundance 2008.
The movie has opened in several theaters in North America, Toronto has been fortunate enough to get it, and I hope a major studio changes it's mind and takes this one world wide, but not to worry the director is finding eager movie theaters anyway.
Enjoyable from beginning to end, a true story that deserved a movie, got one! Go watch it.
Joseph Hurtado from Toronto
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Admittedly I saw >Bottleshock< at 11:30 p.m., after a long week of
trudging through the snow & cold of Sundance. I usually don't go to
movies after 7 p.m., because the whole thing quickly devolves into a
$10 nap. (Picture sleep-deprived me in a soft velvet chair in a
) But I was out of time at ye olde film festival, and
really wanted to catch this one.
>Bottleshock< scored its first cool points with me for something a (sucky) screen writing school I once attended calls "arena." This means that the setting of the film was a spot that I really enjoyed hanging out in for a couple of hours.
That spotactually two of themwas Napa and Paris. Though I've spent more time in the latter than the former, I've drunk more of the affordable fruits of Napa, never realizing that it's a relatively recent invention. In fact, the film is based on a true story about how Napa was nada before one day in 1976, when it proved its wines could be as oh-la-la as those of the French.
Charming and sweet, the story is roughly the tale of two oenophiles, who really just wanna matter. One is a California man (Bill Pullman, who quit his gig as a law-firm partner to see if he could cork a decent second career. The other is a fussy, small-time wine shop owner (Alan Rickman) in Paris, dying for un peu respect. And then it's about all these other things too: Slacker kids who turn out okay (Chris Pine); freeloaders who offer priceless advice (Dennis Farina); the groovy granola 70s (starring as themselves); being a Mexican immigrant promoted up the grape chain (Freddy Rodriguez); good love (Rachael Taylor), and bad hair weaves (that would be Pine again).
The adventure lifts us leisurely over the fruited hills of Napa, or sends us rushing vite-vite through the streets of Paris. Ultimately it's Rickman who tries to put himself on the map by getting out of his dusty shop and staging an international taste-off. Everyone assumes the multi-culti French, who gave us brie and fois gras and topless bathing, will take the grand prize. But it turns out to be the hang-loose-dude Californians, who gave us the salad bar, white after Labor Day and the power lunch.
>Bottleshock< is a fun film. I hope it comes to a theater near you. Or that you can queue it up in your Netflix, score some California wine and some runny French cheese, and enjoy it in the comforts of your casa.
Pamela K. Johnson
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was at Sundance for the screening of Bottle Shock and can tell you first hand, that all the screenings were sold out and the crowds loved the movie. Even the buzz on the shuttle buses between venues was only positive. I loved it. With an incredibly strong cast, the beauty of the California wine country showcased in the camera work and a great collection of 70's music to compliment the musical score, Bottle Shock is a pleasure to watch. The movie is based on the true story of how a Napa winery's 1973 Chardonnay won a French tasting contest that sent the wine world into a frenzy. The story is about the Barrett Family of Montelena and their Chardonnay. Jim Barret a father at odds with his son Bo, is played by Bill Pullman. Steven Spurrier is played by Alan Rickman whose performance is fantastic, as can always be expected. Rickman's Britishness, and the Californina wine makers not being able to tell the difference between British and French, is hilarious. There's a love triangle involving Bo Barrett,(Chris Pine), an intern (Rachael Taylor) and a winery employee (Freddy Rodriguez) with Eliza Dushku as the local tavern owner/friend. All of this pulls together beautifully for the sake of the wine. For me, the scenes of the confused French tasters trying to tell the difference between the French and California wines was unforgettable and in the words of a reviewer, this movie even has "a charming aftertaste."
I recently got a chance to see Bottle Shock and I have to say I thought
it was great. It's really charming and interesting in a very different
way from Sideways, although because of all the beautiful Napa Valley
photography, it still reminded me of it. It also has great characters
and hilarious moments the way that film does. I highly recommend this
Based on a true story, it chronicles how California wine makers became serious contenders in the world competition of wine-- an honor previously assumed to be rewarded always to the French. It centers around a town of quirky up and coming wine makers, each with their own challenges to face. It's got a great cast, including Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Freddie Rodriguez, Rachel Taylor, Eliza Dushku and the hilarious Alan Rickman. Rickman plays an English wine seller in France who's desperate to find the best wines to sell in his store. He travels to California to see if the rumors are true about California's wines. His performance alone is worth seeing this.
It's a charming, heartwarming movie that I think will do very well when it opens 8/8. Check it out, you wont be disappointed.
In 1976, in the Napa Valley, the perfectionist vigneron Jim Barrett
(Bill Pullman) is the owner of the Château Montelena that is full of
debts and near bankruptcy. Jim is unsuccessfully racking his wine
trying to reach perfection. He has a problematic relationship with his
hippie son Bo (Chris Pine) and his Mexican foreman and connoisseur
Gustavo Brambila (Freddy Rodriguez) is secretly producing wine with his
father Mr. Garcia (Miguel Sandoval). Jim hires the free spirit intern
Sam Fulton (Rachael Taylor) from UC Davis to help him in the production
Meanwhile in Paris, the wine expert Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) that owns a specialized store has few clients. His friend Maurice Cantavale (Dennis Farina) advises him to promote his store and he decides to organize a blind tasting competition between the French and the American wines. He travels to Napa Valley to find the best American wines to bring to the dispute. He has a troubled meeting with Jim that refuses to participate in the competition. However Bo foresees the chance of survival of his father's business and gives two bottles to Spurrier. But soon he finds that the color of all the 500 bottles of chardonnay have turned into brown. Is Jim Barrett's business doomed?
"Bottle Shock" is a delightful movie based on a true story. This little but charming movie is not available on DVD in Brazil but only on cable ("O Julgamento de Paris", meaning "The Paris Judgement"), but I bought the American DVD following the advice of a friend of mine from California. The story has a pleasant screenplay with entertaining subplots that might or might not really happen, such as the triangle of love among Sam, Gustavo and Bo, that keeps the plot never boring. The cast has good names associated to the beautiful locations that make this little movie worthwhile watching. My vote is seven.
Title (Brazil): Not Available
Bottle it and take it home with you.
Savor it again and again. This is a stunningly beautiful film. It's just about perfect. My BF didn't think he'd be interested and found himself riveted.
Besides being a great script and incredible story, it's the total package, I loved the soundtrack, the cinematography was amazing, the edit, the timing, the cast, the scenery, the vistas, and OMG some of the most wonderful romantic and captivating locations.
I don't want to spoil it, but it'd be a mistake to compare this gentle masterpiece to Sideways. Nothing at all similar. We were captivated from the first minute. It is an incredibly inspiring, uplifting tale of human achievement - overcoming great odds... and manages to make some strong statements about us, and about our culture... without becoming syrupy or pedantic.
When you get the chance, don't turn away. Enjoy.
When I watched the trailer on HTTP://www.bottleshockthemovie.com/ and
was invited to the screening.. I had to see it right away!! There are
about 3-4 actors most people have seen in other movies. And even the
new actors did an excellent job.
I needed a movie like this right about now.. I have seen all the CGI blockbusters.. The Batman's and china mummies.. The summer of prequel thrillers and sequel killers. This movie has culture and I dare to say reality but, a great true story..
Although most of the people in the theater were about 10-20 years older then me.. I think anyone at any age, and especially if you like the taste of wine(personally I don't drink alcohol) would love this film even more.
I would call it a fantastic drama with loads of comedy and a love story for not only two people, but ones quest of greatness. It really shows how us as humans we are impacted by not only who we are but what we do that helps define us.
It doesn't hurt that we were able to rub it in the face of the French who sometimes think they can be superior to everything and everyone else.
At about 1/3 of the way through the movie I really had to go.. but I didn't want to miss a thing and opted to wait it out.
You won't be disappointing by anything in this film.. Acting A+, Writing A+, Directing A+..
No I don't work in the film industry, I am just a regular guy mid 30's who loves to go to movie premiers and I felt it as my duty to recommend this film to others. I didn't post anything about Tropic Thunder or the new Mummy movie/any other premier I have seen recently..
I was totally in the mood and needed to see a film like this after some of the summer duds I have seen.
Kudos in acting go to:
Chris Pine (nice work see you soon kirk) Alan Rickman ( Wow, didn't know you could be so funny!) Rachael Taylor (beauty and great acting skills (lethal combo!)) Dennis Farina (excellent as always!!!) Miguel and Bradly (great cameos, really good work too!)
Movie is loaded with great actors and a must see.
The film is the vine, the actors are the wine and the movie was a home run even in a blind taste test ...
This one is worth seeing!
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