By Alex Florez
Rated: PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexual content and a scene of drug use.
Release Date: 2008-08-08
Starring: Jody Savin, Randall Miller, Ross Schwartz
Official Website: http://www.bottleshockthemovie.com/
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It’s always a tricky situation to have a film’s protagonist be some-thing rather than some-one. Such is the case with Bottle Shock, wherein California wine, in particular the one from Napa Valley, plays the underdog that goes for glory against all odds. It may sound absurd, but at times this film does indeed have this ‘Rocky’ sensibility to it, where respect is earned and hearts are won.
Based on a true story, the film tells us of a moment in time (1976) when a small American winery competed against the exalted French wines, putting californian vineyards on the map for decades to come. Unfortunately, director Randall Miller muddles the picture with a few other story-lines that to be quite honest detract from the film.
Bill Pullman plays Jim Barrett, the founder of the Montelena vineyard that will eventually compete, but whose perfectionist ways don’t bode well for his son Bo Barrett (Chris Pine), who seems to disappoint his old man on a daily basis. This father-son dynamic continues throughout the film while a contrived love triangle develops between Bo, his best friend Gustavo (Freddy Rodriguez), and a gorgeous intern named Sam (Rachel Taylor).
Then there’s the Steven Spurrier story – the British connoisseur played by an affable Alan Rickman, that travels to northern california in search of bottles for an upcoming wine tasting event he’s put together in europe to promote the diversity of offerings in his failing Paris shop.
But none of these plot lines are fully developed and so they aren’t as compelling as the competition itself. A sad notion when you consider that said competition is only as long as a round in one of the famous Rocky bouts.
Still, those who are not wine enthusiasts or connoisseurs will find some of the scenes rather silly. I’m referring to the faces the actors make when they taste the wine, when they caress the grapevines, and gaze upon the acres of land while the wind dances around the vineyards.
There’s no question this small film has passion, but its also careful enough not to overdo or over glamorize the events that took place in the mid 70s. What’s hurts its chances nevertheless, are the many subplots that are touched upon so subtly but so forcefully thrown together.
While it won’t leave a bad taste in your mouth, you might be more inclined to stick the cork back in the bottle, and call it a night.