‘Bottle Shock’ is weak, but goes down smooth
Vail, CO, Colorado
Quit telling me what to do, wine movies. I don’t need to feel bad for not drinking wine. I don’t need you making me feel bad for not thinking wine is the greatest thing on earth. My life has never changed after drinking a glass of Merlot, and I’ve never had any existential epiphanies because a really good vintage just happened to warm my palate during dinner. In fact, the only thing that ever happens to me when I drink wine is I get drunk and then tired. So why do movies about wine or people who drink wine always try to guilt society into thinking world peace is just one bottle of Pinot Noir away?
“Bottle Shock” is that kind of movie. Only not as overtly meaningful or funny or entertaining as its brilliant older brother “Sideways.” Though comparing these two movies is a bit like comparing apples and oranges (or white and red wine) since they serve two completely different purposes to the audience member who actually lives by the code they both present.
Traveling back in time, “Bottle Shock” takes us to 1976 where we see the rise of the Napa Valley wine empire. An English wine shop owner (Alan Rickman) travels to America to find an American wine worthy of besting the crown from French dominance in a blind taste test competition. In the process he ends up proving that Americans make some pretty darn good wine. Bill Pullman plays the crotchety Jim Barrett, owner of Chateau Montelena in Napa, the wine that eventually takes the top spot in Rickman’s contest.
The movie is shot beautifully with lots of open vineyard landscapes and pretty people to match. Chris Pine plays Bo, Jim’s rebellious son with a heart of gold who eventually ends up saving the day. Rachael Taylor plays Sam, the new, hot intern who comes along just in time to help the family through their ego crisis while simultaneously blinding every man in the film with her feminine charms.
Acting-wise, Rickman and the always-entertaining Dennis Farina, save the movie from a complete pit of cheesiness ” especially when the wine-as-a-metaphor-for-life speeches start to flow. But it’s the film’s light-hearted approach to history that makes it so enjoyable. Unlike “Sideways,” “Bottle Shock” has no underlying themes to wrap your head around, and it’s far from depressing. It’s a very nice little film that plays it safe but to great results. “Sideways” did to wine culture what “Braveheart” did to freedom; “Bottle Shock” won’t inspire like either, but if it makes you even consider drinking a glass of wine after the credits roll, it has achieved something.
High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 970-748-2939 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Movie: Bottle Shock.
Directed by: Randall Miller.
Starring: Chris Pine, Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriguez and Dennis Farina.
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