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TOP 100 MOVIES in 2008!
BOTTLE SHOCK, 2008
Cast: Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Alan Rickman, Freddy Rodriguez, Eliza Dushku, Rachel Taylor
The story of the early days of California wine making featuring the now infamous, blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 that has come to be known as “Judgment of Paris.”
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Based on a true story, Bottle Shock tells the story of Steven Spurrier (Rickman), a wine store owner, interested in boosting his wine shop by holding a competition in which he pits the best French wine against all other wines including ones from California. He assumes that the French will win and bring more business to his wine shop. But when he ventures to California he is shocked to discover that their win is not half bad.
One wine in particular, the Chardonnay, made by Jim Barrett (Pullman) is exceptionally good. Jim and his son, Bo, (Pine) run a winery in Napa Valley, a dream job of Jim’s, and the business has been moderately successful. Yet Jim is skeptical of Spurrier, and unwilling to enter his wine in the contest under the contention that the French will simply mock the Americans and lose. His cynical outlook causes tension between him and his son, who goes behind his father’s back and enters his wine into the contest without his consent.
The wine he enters however turns brown over a few days. The specific wine they made lacked any oxygen, causing it to turn brown. The problem however subsides as it turns white again, and now the Barretts are proud to compete against the French for the title of the best wine now that they have the perfect wine.
There’s a lot of heart and genuine moments in Bottle Shock with sterling performances in particular from Alan Rickman. Chris Pine as the supportive son does a solid job in his role. The film is about passion, families and relationships, and Miller does a fine job with conveying those themes without boarding on melodrama or too many clichés.
During the making of the film, the real Jim and Bo Barrett worked as consultants, providing essential information about not only the story but how to properly check the wine, and more importantly the grapes. There’s an art to picking the right grapes.
We see them thoroughly examine each one, squeezing them in a plastic bag to check the color, texture and consistency. It’s not simply popping one in your mouth and telling how good it tastes. When the wine tasters taste the wine, they spit it out into a pristine silver bucket. They’re not there to drink, they’re there to taste. There’s a science behind how to create, cultivate, sell and taste wine. None of it seems like it’s for pleasure, although they do take time out to smell the roses, or grapes.
Bill Pullman does a nice job as a man whose passion blinds him from the truth that his wines are actually great, despite his claims that none are perfect. His perfectionist ways causes a rift between him and his son, and just when he thinks it’s all over he tries to get back his old job, working 9 to 5 at an office with a boss who refers to his winery as “that hobby of yours.”
There are a few scenes that lay it on a bit thick with the heartfelt moments, including an airport scene in which Rickman is unable to carry on all the wine. So, he and Pine turn around and address the people in line asking that they take a bottle with them as they board. They do. Only to hand it back later in Paris. I find it hard to believe no one just took and left. But okay, I was already absorbed into the story by this time anyway, so it didn’t matter much.
Bottle Shock is a charming, small film that tells an engaging and compelling story about a small winery in California that changed the wine industry forever. Both Pullman and Rickman are great in their roles. It’s not the most original film, but it certainly has moments that feel true and genuine, Bottle Shock is worth a look with a bottle of Chardonnay by your side.