Saturday, January 17, 2009

Film Review: Bottle Shock (11-01-09)

Set in 1976, Alan Rickman is shop owner and wine connoisseur, Steven Spurrier, who looking to broaden the world’s palette and break the stranglehold French vinos had over the market at the time, heads to California in the perception that something ’big’ is happening amongst it’s vineyards. Not expecting major quality, he meets a variety of locals and decides their wine is actually good enough for a tasting competition he is holding back in France. The rest they say, is history.

For a film based on a seemingly important chapter in wine history, Bottle Shock’s major flaw is its almost forced elements of the relationships between its leads. It is not that padding such a distinctive story with dramatic liberties is bad, more that it is just not done that well here. A film like this does need something to keep the interest of non-wine aficionados in the audience, so the idea is acceptable, but the script fails to deliver a little more than a few solid moments of comedy and drama amongst a traditional Hollywood relationship arc. It is nothing you haven’t seen before, but its positives make it worth a watch (only once) with Rickman and wine fans certainly getting the most out of it.

Bill Pullman and Freddy Rodriquez add some convincing dramatic weight to their roles of stubborn father to Chris Pine’s Bo and Mexican cellar rat with wine making ambitions of his own respectively, but they’re never given really too much to work with. Pine is fine enough as our lead who needs to pull his attitude, but the surfer-hippy wig he dons was borderline overly distracting to be honest. Rachael Taylor’s character of Sam is performed well enough I suppose, but it would probably help if I felt she needed to be there at all. The love triangle between her, Bo and Rodriquez’s Gustavo is clearly the films weakest link. As expected, Rickman is playing to type, but he is so much fun, every scene he is in is the film’s highlights, particularly ones involving him and a slightly eccentric Dennis Farina.

Director Randall Miller follows suit with the standardized story by not really being overly inspiring, though the California scenery is on show in all its bright glory, which makes the experience easy on the eye, also dubiously allowing the script’s flaws to wash over a little easier. Comparisons to the superior Sideways (one of my favourite films of recent years) would be unfair to both films and even though Bottle Shock would have benefited expanding on the actual wine making process over the love triangle guff, as it stands it is predictable, enjoyable fare that you could do a lot worse than with your favourite chardonnay on a lazy afternoon.

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