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Based on a true story; Bottle Shock chronicles the events leading up to the famous Paris Tastings of 1976; wherein Napa wines bested the exalted French wines in a blind tasting and put California wines on the map for good. The story is told through the lives of father and son; Jim (Pullman) and Bo Barrett (Pine); who founded Chateau Montelena in the early 1970s and whose Chardonnay went on to win what was eventually coined "Judgment of Paris." Jim Barrett; who had been a successful real estate attorney previously; is emblematic of the California vintners' spirit mavericks who had come to Napa on a quest to make world class wines. Bottle Shock is many things: the story of Steve Spurrier (Rickman); an unwitting British wine shop owner in Paris whose publicity stunt set the stage for a paradigm shift in the wine world; a father and son story as Jim and Bo overcome their differences to save Chateau Montelena from creditors and what they think is an entirely ruined vintage; a romance between a young beautiful university student (Taylor) who came to learn the wine business first hand and wound up falling in love with a vintner's son who was just coming of age; and finally; the story of a young Hispanic vintner (Rodriguez) just branching out on his own. Against the backdrop of the turbulent 70's and in the shadow of the French who had dominated the world's viticulture and viniculture for centuries; these "hicks from the sticks" rose up for California; for America; for wine. And the world of wine was never the same.
"Bottle shock" describes what can happen to wine as it travels from place to place. Set in 1976, Randall Miller's widescreen docudrama concerns the real-life showdown between California's wineries and their French counterparts. Napa Valley's Jim Barrett (Lost Highway's Bill Pullman) has been plugging away for years with minimal success. A former attorney, Barrett runs Chateau Montelena with his wayward son, Bo (Chris Pine, the Star Trek prequel's Captain Kirk), who would rather do anything than assist his stern father. Bo's co-workers include Gustavo (Six Feet Under's Freddy Rodríguez) and Sam (Transformers' Rachael Taylor), who long to produce the perfect chardonnay. Naturally, the young men compete for the favors of the beautiful blonde (the movie's least interesting angle). Across the Atlantic, Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) struggles to keep his Parisian wine shop going (cheapskate American Dennis Farina is his only regular customer). Then Spurrier conceives a contest to attract customers; surely, his beloved French growers will put those upstart Yanks in their place. He flies to Napa to look around, and persuades the Barretts to compete. Miller and his wife, screenwriter Jody Savin, previously worked with Pullman and Rickman on Nobel Son, but decided to release Bottle Shock first. Though comparisons to Sideways will be inevitable, the filmmakers take more of a historical look at California wine country. The "Judgment of Paris" changed the face of the business forever, and they've found a lively way to recount the tale. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Beyond Bottle Shock
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Stills from Bottle Shock (Click for larger image)
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The cast here is top notch with Alan Rickman at his snarky, funny best and solid performances by Bill Pullman and a hardly recognizable Chris Pine. The cinematography and feel of the film captures both the earnestness and Wild West atmosphere of the American Wine scene at the time and pays homage to both the leaders and laborers while also incorporating a sly, self aware sense of humor. This self awareness may be it's top strength and the laughs are smart, human and always completely in character.
So saying all this why did I give it 4 instead of 5? Because of a personal gripe about adjusting time frames and leaving out key individuals when basing a movie on real events. Look, I know moviemaking is a product of a lot of influences, including ensuring flow and story coherence so as not to lose the audience. But including Gustavo Brambilo instead of the real wine maker, Croatian born Mike Grgich adds a cloudiness to the real story that I didn't feel was necessary. Not that Brambilo is not a gifted wine maker in his own right, but it would have been nice to throw some kudos in Grgich's direction, though I'm betting the commercial and critical success of his own "Grgich Hills" Winery precluded that.
So, rent this and enjoy it over a good bottle of wine and here is to the hope that it might encourage you to try the wonderful diverse world of wines from California, France and all points in between.
The girl's character was weak, pathetic & stupid, however ("3 wheels are as good as 4"). Supposedly there as an intern, it's completely obvious the character was put in for the sexual attraction only, since she never uttered one word of knowledge about wine--or anything, really.
That's just my opinion from someone who was not aware of the story beforehand.
I will admit whenever I thought of it as being a true story while watching, I knew I'd be searching for the truth in it all, as it does have 'Hollywood'
written all over it.
Just the same, I did enjoy it.
The mechanism for this accomplishment was a "blind test" of various reds and whites in 1976. The contest was held in France.
Portrayals of the vineyards and their owners show Napa Valley in all its beauty--light, fresh air, good soil and careful growers. You don't need to be a wine expert to appreciate the care with which the grapes are grown grown and the care with which they are barreled. Producing great nectar is in the hopes, dreams and daily life of the growers. It's an obsession!
The cast is enjoyable to watch with good performances by veteran actors Bill Pullman Alan Rickman and Dennis Farina (cameo by Miguel Sandoval and Bradley Whitfield); young newcomers (at the time) include fun performances by Chris Pine, Freddy Rodrigez and the beautiful Rachel Taylor. Combined, they are constantly, a feast for the eyes.
Overall, this is fun movie that is about something meaningful and it is visually beautiful to watch. Sorry, no explosions, murders, sociopathic betrayals or deep gratuitous sex. It's a lovely, engaging movie for adults that's a pleasure to watch. It's bottled well!
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They could have created a story that was 90% factual instead of 90% made up.Read more