The lesser known of the two movies made about wine from the 2000’s.
Bottle Shock starring Chris Pine, Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriquez, and directed by Randall Miller. The film is based on the true story of a 1976 blind tasting competition between French and California wines. Bottle Shock focuses its story on one California vineyard in particular owned by Bill Pullman’s character Jim Barrett who is helped by his son Bo played by Chris Pine. They are a struggling financially and without producing a successful wine for the season Jim will have to sell the vineyard. Enter the British wine enthusiast played by the late great Alan Rickman who offers to put California wines up against the vaunted French. Rickman’s character, Steven Spurrier doesn’t really think the California wines have a chance, but he’s surprised by how good the wine is in California.
Bottle Shock is a simple light fun movie. There isn’t much depth to its story, but the film does try and add more to its characters. It’s about the romance of making wine along with the desire to do something with your life. Jim Barrett left a law firm to buy a winery and make wine. He knows what he is doing, but there is always a hint of him being lost in the process. Bo is a hippy who is still lost in the sixties, and doesn’t want to grow up. Rachael Taylor plays the girl interest for Pine and Freddy Rodriquez, and adds love triangle element to the story. She is probably the least developed character, but still plays the role well. I could have probably done without this story element, but it doesn’t hurt the movie either. Rickman’s character Spurrier wants to prove he belongs in the wine circles in France and sees the competition as a way to become established. Most of the characters have something to prove to either themselves or the outside world, and while it might be a tad cliché, I found the story and characters engaging.
All of the actors in the roles do a fantastic job. Pine might seem out of place playing the hippy, but he does it well. There is a great scene with him going to a country club to ask for money from his mother and is beautifully awkward. Alan Rickman stands out above everyone, because of who he is. He plays the pompous British wine snob to perfection. There is a hint of his inner goodness throughout the film though. He has the façade of being a snob, but in the end you can’t help but like his character. I can watch this movie over and over simply because Rickman is in it and how well he acts in the role. The film is worth a watch at least once just to see him perform. Don’t get me wrong he’s not playing Macbeth, but he just does a great job. Pine and Rickman are the two standouts in the film for me, but Rodriquez does a good job with his part and adds an interesting Mexican-American element to the story. It might be a little heavy handed at times, but I still enjoyed it. The entire story might be a little on the nose overall, but with its light fun tone, it doesn’t worry about making big statements with its characters.
The backdrop and setting of the film is another reason why I enjoyed it so much. Setting the film in Napa Valley is fantastic. The characters travel around the valley quite a bit and why wouldn’t you use this as an excuse to shoot the fantastic scenery. Along with the scenery I found the musical score in the movie added to the tone of the film. I liked that Spurrier had a nice little French theme to go along with him, and Bo a rock. Then with the sweeping shots of the valley you get an appropriate musical score to accompany them. The score just added a bit more enjoyment to the light hearted good natured movie.
The only issue I have with the movie is that the pacing is a little off. It probably is about ten to fifteen minutes too long, and some scenes could have been cut to speed up time. They could have cut out the love triangle aspect and it would have sped up the pacing. The ending has one too many scenarios, and while parts of each story are probably true, the film could have cut back on one and it would have streamlined the ending of the film. Even with these problems I have watched Bottle Shock numerous times. I’ll stop and watch if I catch it on television at any point and watch until the conclusion.
For me Bottle Shock is an enjoyable fun film based on true life events. I think it is worth watching, and if you have Amazon Prime you can stream it as part of their video service at the moment. If you have seen it before let me know what you think. If not does it sound interesting? Comment and let me know.