Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bottle Shock Is Shockingly Good

Here is a movie that treats its subject with true elegance and passion that shines through the beautiful shots of the vineyards to the glowing performance of Alan Rickman.
The movie is set in the year 1976 and focuses on a small event that would make Napa Valley a household name.
After viewing the movie, I went online to do some research about the event. What I learned is that “Bottle Shock” is a more fictionalized version of what really happened, but it makes it all the more interesting for the viewer
Let’s begin, the movie is shot in California like the movie “Sideways”, which the advertisements are comparing it to. I don’t agree with this comparison, “Sideways” was a great movie, but the two couldn’t be more different. “Bottle Shock” is really close to the vineyards and the birth of wine, where “Sideways” was more about the characters enjoying the already created wine.
The movie then starts its story and we are brought to a struggling vineyard owner named Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman). Jim owns Chateau Montelena and is in very deep debt with three bank loans. Jim is also growing more stressed over his son, Bo Barrett (Chris Pine) and the choices he’s making in his life.
We then move over to Paris and meet the best character in the movie, British wine enthusiast, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman). Steven owns a tiny wine shop named “The Academy of Wine.” The shop is always empty, but he does have one frequent visitor from the next door business named Maurice (Dennis Farina). Maurice gives Steven hope each time he enjoys one of his wines, which we see him sampling a lot while talking business with Spurrier.
Spurrier who has been very intrigued about what is hearing about California wines, leads him to sponsor a blind taste-test between the wines of the two countries. He then gathers a panel of expert judges made up of all French.
The story then shifts back to Napa and we are introduced to two more important characters. We have Jim’s employee, Gustavo Brambilia who is played wonderfully by Freddy Rodriquez and the vineyards summer intern, Sam (Rachael Taylor). Gustavo claims, which becomes some what of a theme, that he has wine in his bones.
The real Brambilia would later go off and found his own famous vineyard.
One pass time that Gustavo takes part in is raising cash by his ability to identify any wine and vintage just by tasting it. Then like we can all predict Bo and Gustavo fall in love with the summer intern Sam, who lives in a shack on the vineyard, and I don’t even know how she survives in there, it’s all open and wonder if it rains, she would be ankle deep in rain water. I really would like to know how the real Sam liked this shack.
Spurrier then comes to Napa, he tastes all the wines in the valley and then brings back the ones that most impress him in order for them to be able to compete in the taste test.
I mean we all know what the outcome of the taste test is going to be, the Americans win, because the movie has a lot of elements of an underdog story, which makes it more and more interesting as we continue to invest time in watching it.
The movie’s has two very strong qualities, the first is the very intimate look at the wine which is the core of the story, and then we have Alan Rickman.
Rickman pulls off a very comedic performance, without ever trying to be funny. The scenes where he is navigating the back roads of Napa Valley in a Gremlin, tasting the wine from all the farmers, eating KFC chicken and convincing 26 fellow air travelers to carry a bottle of wine for him back to Paris, just shows what a great actor can do and how they can make a good movie into a great movie.
There were some things I didn’t like about the movie and that are two of the performances. I thought Chris Pine and Rachael Taylor could have been a little more believable in there roles and I feel they both fell short.
I know there are going to be people who won’t like this movie. I do admit it’s a clunky movie and a lot of people might not care enough about its subject matter to invest time in it. To me the movie was great, I found its clunky and charming story appealing and refreshing.
After watching this movie, I feel like I can go out and start making wine, because they give you so much detail on how to make it.
In order to have the best tasting wine the grape has to be thirsty and struggle in order to produce its best flavor. In that kind of ties in with the characters, the grapes are struggling and so is Jim Barrett but in the end they come together and both succeed.

*** Out of Four

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

After reading your review of this movie I can't wait to see it.