Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bottle Shock

Imagine Sideways if it were actually about wine instead of self-loathing. This movie is nothing but good fun and wine. The closing film at the Savannah Film fest stood out among a year dominated by rather serious movies. Bottle Shock is based on the true story of a 1976 wine tasting in Paris, the first of which including California wines. It was what could only be described as America's wine coming out party.

In the movie, Steven Spurrior (Alan Rickman)- the owner of a Parisian win store- in an attempt to cement France as the wine center of the world, relents to his fiend's challenge and sets up a blind tasting to include American wines. He sets off to California to track down the best of what Napa Valley has to offer. Here Spurrior comes across a vineyard run by father and son team Jim and Bo Barret (Bill Pullman and Chris Pine). It's a story as old as time. The stubborn strong headed father butting heads with his slacker son. As the movie progresses, the roles change in a way, as Bo wants to participate in the tasting, while Jim wants nothing to do with it, or the stuck up Spurrior.

Bo, with his youthful ambition and openness, sees the competition as a way to finally give California wines credibility. He finally looks to something beyond hustling people tasting wine in the local bars with his best friend and wine connoisseur, Gustavo Brambila (Freddy Rodriguez) and the vineyard's new intern, Sam (Rachael Taylor). Jim, on the other hand, sees the competition as nothing more than an attempt to mock America.

The movie does, of course, include other plot lines, like a love triangle between Bo, Gustavo, and Sam, and conflict between Gustavo and Jim when Gustavo wants to start his own vineyard. None of these, however, overshadow the wine. Without a doubt the best moments are when the characters are either talking about, or drinking wine. It forms not only the backbone of the movie, but also the cornerstone of their lives. It seems the only time they're truly in their element is when wine is around.

Bottle Shock was a delightfully fun movie. There's not a whole lot of substance to it, but it doesn't pretend to have what it doesn't. It naturally has the intergenerational and international conflict that drives the movie, but it's not bogged down by trying to say too much by these themes. It presents them as is, and lets them just float in the background. The movie is fun from the start all the way to its light finish.


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