A Corker of a Film—Bottle Shock

(This probably isn’t coming to a theater near you, but just in case)

Bottle Shock

(PG-13; 110 min.) Helicopter shots of Napa, Glen Ellen and parts of Sonoma County are the highlights of this fictionalized comedy about the 1976 French blind tasting that established California wine as an international force. The feuding father-and-son team of Jim Barrett  (Bill Pullman) and his hippiesh son Bo (Chris Pine in a Kurt Cobain wig) punch the hell out of each other in a makeshift boxing ring. Freddy Rodriguez of Six Feet Under is the best chum who is learning to become a winemaker on his own. Meanwhile, an intern from UC-Davis named Sam (Rachael Taylor) causes romantic confusion. To the film’s credit, there are some knowing references to the coming money storm that would all but drive the funk out of wine country—a montage in which a group of shade-tree vintners are startled to realize that someone would pay them for tastings. A huge improvement over Randall Miller’s last film, Marilyn Hotchkiss Ballroom Dancing and Charm School, it still serves up a relentless snarl of cliches—it’s amazing that Miller spared himself and us the line “We will sell no wine before its time.” The restaging of a famous scene from It Happened One Night epitomizes the general shamelessness. (The scene is a further irritant if you remember how easy it was to hitchhike in Northern California in the mid-1970s.)  Alan Rickman, as the British wine merchant who starts the kerfluffle, does a great deal with his air of sarcastic melancholy, and he gives this film a boost whenever he appears. 

123 comments to A Corker of a Film—Bottle Shock

  • Melissa

    I loved this movie! It’s not a perfect film, but I’ll forgive it any mistakes because I thought it was so beautiful and charming. I was truely inspirted by the passion of the chcaracters and I learned so much about wine I didn’t know. It’s gotten some great reviews and I can see why. The film is funny, well-paced, wonderfully acted and just plain entertaining and fun. Two thumbs up!

  • Philippe

    Unless you are an unconditional fan of Alan Rickman–whose contemptuous curling of lips is always delicious to see, and who does indeed steal the show whenever he is on screen–don’t bother with this movie. I do not say this just because, to paraphrase Rickman, I’m French and you’re not, or because I resent the fact that California wines won over French ones. I really thought that it was a terrible waste of beautiful scenery and sometimes decent acting. Movie? More like an ad from the Napa Valley tourism board or the local winemakers’ association. I never thought “Sideways,” the success of which may have helped secure financing for this project, was that good of a movie, but this is much worse. Bill Pullman overacts more than William Shatner, the Dennis Farina character is seemingly there only so that Alan Rickman doesn’t speak to himself, the cliches are piling up so high you can’t see the picture anymore… Actually, come to think of it, some of my impatience with the film does come from the fact that I am French and have lived in France as well as the US. Most of what is shown as being French is either a cliche or a misrepresentation. Sorry, but Sonoma CA doesn’t look anything like Paris or its region–for the scene of the wine tasting I might have bought Provence, but outside Paris? Please. And in 1976 French people drove cars others than Citroen 2CVs. As for learning something about wine, it’s all well and good that the efforts of California wine makers were deservedly recognized, but the film doesn’t convey the complexity of factors and decisions involved in wine-making and especially wine-selling. If you really want to learn about that, watch the excellent 2004 documentary “Mondovino” instead.

  • Cameron Horton

    Well over two years later, and I can’t help but make a comment about the ludicrousness and absurdity of this film. Two words: Bad film – and even worse as a depiction of fact – as it so deceptively proclaims – “based on a true story.” Nothing, except the mere fact that some California wines beat the French in a random blind tasting, in this film is true. I was there, I was her “Sam” (Bo Barrett’s girlfriend – now ex-wife), and I will tell you it was insultingly wrong on so many levels. How do movies like this ever get made? No wonder no studio picked it up – and no wonder it was self-promoted. Who else would touch it?

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