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|Index||20 reviews in total|
I love wine. I like to think I know wine. But I also know I do not know
all that much. There's too much to know. When I go to the places where
these guys work, I trust them to help me get things right. That's what
they do, its beautiful and it is absolutely an art.
These guys chasing the MS designation...THEY know a LOT about wines. More than any one else in the world. Seriously. They have to, just to be invited, even if they don't pass the test. Its brutal.
If you have sat for the Bar or the CFA or something similar, then the tale told here will ring very true. Its the same sort of obsessive all consuming effort required to get prepared.
The film gets very close to conveying what it takes and the methods used to even get to the testing table. And the Fraternity of the participants is absolutely one of the greatest messages that comes out. Its competitive but not in the 'I win you lose' sense. If you can raise yourself to the highest level of expertise in the world then you have a chance of passing. These guys are great.
There's a couple of slow moments but overall this keeps moving by portraying the toll on relationships and the character of all concerned.
Now I cannot judge whether a non-wine person would find it as emotionally immersive as someone that knows just what the hell they are talking about. The fluency and speed of interaction may all pass as a blur that gets boring after the tenth time, I dunno. But for me and the others in the theater, we were rooting for the contestants and making choices of winners and losers. Undoubtedly at some point I will look up at the Somm and it will be one of the guys in this movie.
If you want to know the outcome, you'll have to go cuz I ain't spoiling it here!
This is really one of the worst documentaries I have seen in a while.
It has the feel of a 30-minute reality TV show about four guys who have
to take a test, but stretched out to two hours.
Generally speaking, a documentary should do one of two things (or both): (1) expand a person's knowledge of a subject; and/or (2) create a bond between the viewer and the subject so as to convey some sort of overriding message.
This film does none of that. It's four guys studying a lot, and then interviews with their wives and S/O's.
The film does not even begin to educate viewers about wine, wine provenance, or wine tasting. Despite devoting what seems like endless periods of time showing the four guys studying up on wine geography, for example, the film does not provide the viewer a brief explanation of the major areas in world where wine grapes are grown.
Similarly, we are exposed to dozens of shots of tasting sessions where the somm's use all kinds of technical jargon to describe wine -- and not once does the film attempt to convey to the watcher what any of it means.
Being a bit of a wine enthusiast, I picked up some of the meaning. But as a documentary? This thing is terrible. It's four guys who work in the wine industry and love wine who study for a big test. If they fail the test? They take it again next year.
By the end of the film, the viewer does not care about the guys, the test, or anything else. When I studied for the bar exam, I did not video record myself doing so because it lacked any sort of entertainment value. One wonders why the same restraint was not exhibited by the filmmakers here.
Greetings again from the darkness. Alexander Payne's 2004 hit Sideways
made wine tasting and discussion a fun thing to do with friends, and
U.S. wine tours exploded. In the movie, Miles (Paul Giamatti) is quite
knowledgeable and opinionated on wine. However, comparing Miles to the
real life characters in the Somm documentary is like comparing the boys
of The Sandlot to major leaguers ... it's not even close!
Filmmaker Jason Wise follows four guys as they prepare for the nearly impossible to pass Master Sommelier exam. The certification has been around for 40 plus years, and less than 200 applicants have actually passed. We get to know the four who are studying so diligently by watching them interact and even talk to the camera. The competitive nature is on full display through the trash-talking and emotions that are evident through each disagreement. Mostly we witness the enormous stress that comes from working so hard for a single shot ... the best comparison I can make is that of an Olympic athlete preparing for their single event.
We also meet Fred Dame, the Godfather of U.S. Master Sommelier. He trains through intimidation and seems to carry the burden of exclusivity in every interaction. Yeah, he's kind of jerk. As are the four vying for the certification. It seems one must be self-absorbed and borderline ego-maniacal to build the knowledge and fine tune the palate necessary to have a shot.
The exam is broken into 3 parts: Blind wine tasting, Theory, and Service. The wine tasting segments are most fun to watch as we quickly learn there is a skill, a science and some luck involved. Through a sniff and a sip, they must be able to identify the type of wine, the subtle flavors, the age of the wine, the country of origin, the specific region, and even the level of winery. The theory section involves knowing wine history from all over the globe. This is accomplished through endless hours of reading and flash card drills. The Service portion gets the short straw here, but we do get a taste of the outlandish nature of a game whose point seems to be humiliating the participant.
To add another touch of legend, we do get some insight from Bo Barrett, the legendary California wine maker profiled in the movie Bottle Shock. Mostly though, we learn that this most prestigious designation can only be obtained through an elitist Obsessive-Compulsive approach that kills all sense of acceptable societal manner. For most of us, enjoying a glass of wine with friends is reward enough ... for you others, best of luck learning the 3000 grape varietals in Italy alone.
I have an acutely ambivalent reaction to this attempted documentary. I
am more-than-average interested in the topic of wine, but SOMM instead
treats the subject of 4 guys preparing to take an exam to become
'master sommeliers'. So, to my disappointment, the film really wasn't
about wine at all, rather a reality-show style video of 4 fairly
obnoxious, unlikeable, uninteresting guys, full of themselves, and also
full of obnoxious 'frat bro' bravado, reciting wine attributes like a
mantra and spitting into a bucket. They manage to take the consumption
of wine, which should be an act of immense pleasure and sensation, and
degrade it into little more than a circle-jerk weenie-measuring
contest. If one of these clowns unctuously showed up at my table to
offer 'advice', I would totally ignore and wave him away. And these
guys are almost sympathetic in comparison to the men in the film who
already ARE 'master sommeliers'. If anything, this film demystifies the
credential, and exposes it as little more than a hazing ritual,
conferring a title of dubious value and dubious legitimacy. I like good
wine, and I'm certainly open to learning more and experiencing
something new, but I would want no part of what any of these jerks are
3 stars out of 10 for some pretty filmography, and a nice original soundtrack. I appreciate the filmmaker's intention here, but the content mostly fails. It's like having a decanter full of wine, where the decanter is more interesting than the wine.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This movie, without a whiff of irony, lets you in to see the world of
the incredibly privileged 'master sommelier' - focusing mostly on three
dudes with no jobs, lots of familial financial support, and perversely,
no apparent love of wine, as they navigate the stunningly complex,
utterly gated certification course that will ensure they are rich to
the end of their days...as it was that they started.
This is useful to see, I think, because it should let you dismiss, in your own life, some of the anxiety we all have about buying wine, drinking wine, and what we all feel we are expected to know about wine. The documentary has no soul, no joy, nothing that wine is or provides - it is deeply infatuated with itself, in much the same way its subjects are, and I think you should avoid it.
I gave it one star for the awful perspective, and one star for finding so many garish ways to break wine glasses in slow motion - which is a nonsensical and constantly recurring motif.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A sommelier is an expert of wine. Sommeliers assist restaurants in wine
selections and wine pairings. There are several levels of official
sommeliers with the highest rank being the Master. In the decades that
the test has been around, only a couple hundred people have passed
around the world. Somm is a documentary that follows a group of guys as
they complete their year of preparation for the exam to become Master
Somm does a wonderful job of balancing the magnitude of the test (by establishing its difficulty and significance) as well as the emotional impact of the test. We come to feel (not just understand) how hard people study for the test and the stress it creates. Each of the students are presented in such a way that you root for them all. Initially, I thought Ian came across as abrasive and obnoxious but by the end, I was rooting for him just as much as I was rooting for everyone else.
The test itself is broken into three sections: a theory test, a serving test, and a blind tasting. You can't focus on all three sections, so which one do you choose? Before watching this movie, that's a question that never would've occurred to me but I think Somm nails it. I read a comment somewhere that the film doesn't really emphasize the importance of the serving portion. I agree but I have a potential idea as to why.
The Theory portion requires an extensive knowledge of wine. One must know the names of countless wineries and regions, historical details, and details about the creation of wine. It is however, a test. Everyone knows what tests are like and nobody likes 'em. The rigorous study for this part is the main vehicle for coming to relate to the characters, but the theory element itself isn't emphasized.
Unless you've worked in the service or food industry, the Service portion of the exam probably won't mean much to you. We do get to see one practice test where a couple master sommeliers pose as difficult customers. "We want something between a red and a white that goes with our fish," orders the customer, "but we want it cold. Ice cold." The hopeful trainee gives a selection suggestion, must handle the realization that he doesn't have that particular wine, then must quickly chill the wine. This one scene is sufficient to capture the name of the service portion of the test.
In the Tasting portion, the examinees are given three reds and three whites. They have to smell and taste each and name-say everything there is to be said about them: the alcohol level, the sweetness, the fruits and flavors incorporated into the wine, the region if not the winery, and a potential year.
The Tasting portion is a major point of interest in the film and it's a brilliant decision. We all know wine. Many of us, I think it's fair to say, enjoy wine. The image of a person who can taste a wine and provide incite into the elixir is one of character and class.
I can tell you a red from a white. As a slight aside, we got a bottle of five-dollar wine one night instead of the normal Three-Buck Chuck from Trader Joe's. We decided that Three-Buck Chuck is just bad (but you know, you'll have that for three dollars) and the five-dollar wine was still bad but at least it tasted like wine. It gave us the feeling that somewhere out there exists wine that actually tastes good. I'm practically a sommelier!
Anyway, with this basis, the film is able to build from a subject to which we can all (in varying levels) relate.
There was one point, however, where the film slipped a bit. During a practice tasting, the one person said a Chardonnay was some other type of white wine. The point of the scene was emphasis how he was cracking under pressure but the simplicity of his error almost undermined the difficulty of the test.
If he said a wine from Nepal was from California or a region with completely different style of wine, it would be accomplishing the same task. It would show that he was cracking while maintaining the difficulty of the test. How can this guy be an expert if can't tell a Chardonnay from a categorically different wine?
That said it was a very brief scene that didn't detract from the film all that much. Somm manages to navigate an esoteric subject in a compelling way. It is a beautifully crafted documentary that I highly recommend.
Compelling look at the dedication needed to pass one of the hardest
exams in the world. Each of the candidates featured in the movie had
interesting personality quirks that kept my interest... I found myself
rooting for all of them, knowing the odds were against them.
This documentary will likely appeal to wine lovers, but perhaps also those who are curious about wine or appreciate obsessions. This documentary reminded me of Kings of Pastry- a similar look at an exam that requires full obsession and dedication. Although not about an exam, the sushi documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi had a similar feel.
The constant background music during dialogue/ emotional high points was very distracting, enough to dock it a point or two.
Bunch of young guys try to become Sommeliers, who are experts in wine, said to be one of the hardest exams to pass. I didn't really learn any interesting facts about wine. It was really just guys sitting around offering their best descriptions of the wine they were tasting, doing a bit of study, getting annoyed, bit more study, mock exams, whinging. We never really became connected with the participants, or came to know much about them at all, except that they wanted to pass this test. I was intrigued by how they were able to correctly identify some of the wine, but it was never really explored how they do it. I assume from drinking a lot of wine from all over the world. I mean...how does one become interested in this??? Not answered. How is it done??? Not answered. How many varieties of wine are there??? They did say there only 147 qualified in the world, so that was one interesting fact. I did feel sympathetic to the guys and the amount of pressure they were under, but the whole topic and the characters were vastly unexplored. I wouldn't rush out to catch this.
SOMM tells the story of a group of young men working towards earning the prestigious title Master Sommelier. This is among the most difficult series of exams to pass in the world. Incredibly, the candidate must blind taste wine and identify its type region and vintage as part of the test. The people who choose to pursue this are an interesting and varied group. In the end, it's about wine, but It is also the tale of friendship, teamwork and perseverance. The pressure of the upcoming exam is palpable, weighing on relationships. We waited in line for two hours to see this film at the Napa Valley Film Festival. We were so gad we did. It was fabulous!
This show has a tremendous amount to convey about the wine industry. Its follow up on Television is called Uncorked. Both push the Sommelier job title into the same stratosphere that had been reserved for chefs. Sideways made wine tasting and discussion an acceptable pastime. Winery tours are must do side trips. In Sideways, Miles is pretentious and opinionated on wine. These people are what Miles wants to be. The movie includes Bo Barrett, the son of a legendary California wine maker at Château Montelena, in the movie Bottle Shock. I was fortunate to see SOMM before attending the Introductory Level course of the Guild. These guys and gals really are good. The tests are very difficult. And when they finally pass they get paid handsomely....and they deserve to be....
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