I think I’ve seen this movie from 2008 about 4 times in the past year, it’s one of those little gems that resonates with me, the story, the period and the cinematography. When I recently wrote up Sergio Leone’s masterpiece, Once Upon a Time in the West I spent most of the time talking about the color; Bottle Shock is another beautiful movie with big blue skies, yellow fields, and green trees. Whether in France or in northern California’s Napa Valley, the colors are beautiful.
I love color, and I love colorful stories and characters. Bottle Shock delivers. Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, and Chris Pine deliver some fantastic performances in this 2008 gem from Randall Miller. And this is a story, it’s not an accurate documentary of the events that made the news around the world as Napa Valley wines took the stage as the best wines in the world. The events and characters are based on what did happen, but they are presented in a dramatic fashion rather than focusing on accuracy. The result is a fun and moving story, one that gets us up off our chairs and cheering.
Rickman’s Steven Spurrier is fantastic as a British wine expert who is tasked with tasting wines from California in order to find a wine worthy of competing with the French greats. His boredom and contempt of the activity is brought to entertaining level by Rickman who is a master at his craft. Having been on the little or big screen since the late 70′s we best know him as Hans Gruber from Die Hard, but his talent as an actor was recognized before that little action film. However Die Hard did put Rickman into the limelight and since then he’s graced our screens with a number of fantastic performances. Bottle Shock is no different and it is another great performance from Rickman.
I like Bill Pullman, always have, he can cheese it up and when he wants to, he can act. His characterization of Jim Barret, the owner of Chateau Montelena, is fun to watch. There was a wine boom in the 70′s, and as with any boom it brought many people to California in the hope of making it rich off wine. And as with any boom, many failed and crawled back to their former lives, their tails between their legs. Pullman pulls off the character of Barret beautifully: he’s human, passionate, stubborn, all those things you expect from a man that goes out of his way to follow a dream.
Bo Barret is played by a still unknown Chris Pine. In 2009 we’d all know him as Captain James T. Kirk, but in 2008, he was still relatively unknown. Pine’s great as the aloof hippy dropout trying to find himself and his calling in the strange days of the ’70s. It’s not a challenging role but definitely one worth taking in as it is a pre-stardom role.
Music always plays an important role in getting emotions across and the use of the classic ’70s rock is perfectly used. As mentioned, I see this movie less about an accurate story telling and more of an emotional story telling and in order to do that to convey that facts are dropped, people are dropped and the emotions are played. A good soundtrack is an easy win for that. As are love interests. Rachel Taylor’s leggy blond California girl is a perfect example; there’s a ’70s nostalgia about the blond California girl that we all swoon over. Mix in a classic soundtrack on top and the nostalgia an good vibes are pumping.
And that is what this movie is trying to pull off, that feel as Barret, California and the US pulled off the impossible, winning the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 (Judgment of Paris). A feat never done before and one that did change the landscape of wine production across the globe. France was no longer the king of wines and the world was game. The emotions of that victory of that change are what makes this movie work. Sappy? Nostalgic? Absolutely, and when it is well done, it’s what makes us want to watch these movies again and again.
Absolutely take the time to sit through this movie, invite some friends over and have a wine tasting. Take the time to enjoy a good story about an event and for a few minutes slip into another time.
You can pick up Bottle Shock on amazon on bluray and DVD: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=bottle+shock
Discuss this movie further on the fwoosh forums: http://thefwoosh.com/forum/viewforum.php?f=99