Customer Reviews: Bottle Shock
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on December 12, 2008
Before a (then) little known Paris wine tasting in 1976, most people had no idea that California was producing world class wines. That changed when a British ex-pat in Paris organized a wine tasting of the best French versus the best Californians - against all expectations, California won both best red and white and nothing in the wine world has been the same since.

This drama/light comedy follows the true story of the travails of the winning white (Chardonnay) winery leading up to the competition. There is lots to enjoy here including a struggling small business story, an evolving father-son relationship, the comeuppance of an arrogant industry, and of course, a love triangle. The movie is well cast (and very well acted) with Bill Pullman as the business owner father and Alan Rickman as the snobby Brit amazed to find that good wines can be found this side of the Atlantic.

In the final analysis, this is a feel good movie, suitable for the whole family with the proviso that kids under 10 might get bored in places.
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on February 1, 2009
I saw this movie when it first came out, and then put on a tasting party based on the wines they drank in the movie. People had a great time watching the movie while drinking some of the same wines from the famous tasting (newer vintages). It is true that a lot of artistic licence has been taken, so if you care about the real facts, read The Judgement of Paris (excellent book). However, there are some hilarious lines, Alan Rickman is fabulous, and the scene of the tasting itself is a must for anyone that cares about wine. Personally, I would fast forward through the love-triangle scenes ("Jules and Jim" this film is not). Any wine lover who doesn't see it because of the negative comments about it not perfectly following the facts will be missing out on a very enjoyable film.
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VINE VOICEon March 30, 2009
I'd never heard of this film, which was offered on a recent flight overseas. Given the other movies offered, however, it looked appetizing enough, and I'm glad we tried it out.

Here, we meet again Alan Rickman (best-known for his role in the Harry Potter film series, as the snarling and sinister Snape). This time, however, he's Steven Spurrier, an amusing British dirty blond, the middle-aged proprietor of a failing Paris wine-tasting "academy," ahem, business. His exceedingly poor French pronunciation earns him a snub from even the sommelier at classiest City of Light annual vintners' event: He is nearly rejected at the door, and upon indignantly showing his ticket, is seated at the last table in the rear, by the swinging dining room door.

We also get another surprise performance from Dennis Farina, most famous for his hardened cop character in Law & Order. Here, as Maurice, Farina plays a gauche New York transplant to Paris, an acquaintance of Spurrier who proposes that the latter stir up business by hosting a wine tasting to pit French wines against the best that California has to offer. The thinking is that California will naturally lose, big time.

But everyone in France, at least, is astonished by the outcome. Along the way, viewers also witness fine character acting by California winery owner Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman) and his post-Woodstock generation son, Bo (Chris Pine).

A thoroughly enjoyable romp through a 1976 true-life story---or a story at least based on true life. American ingenuity wins, again.
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on January 30, 2009
I saw this movie on a trans-Pacific airline trip and it is fabulous! If you survived the seventies and love wine, this is for you. Of if you're just an Alan Rickman fan, you'll like it, too! Really a fun, fun movie and makes me want to spend a year's salary to buy a bottle of 1971 California Chardonnay!
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on September 11, 2009
It was one of those movies where I REALLY wish it had a better director and/or writer. There was a interesting story to tell there, but the director and scriptwriters muddied it up.

There are good solid performances all around. Alan Rickman was his usual fine self as the Brit living in France who comes up with the idea of the event. He's droll, dry, and sarcastic. Renting the film is worth it for his performance alone. Bill Pullman is very stoic and tightly wound as Jim Barrett, the winery owner who has staked everything he owns on the little-winery-that-could and is having a financial melt-down. Chris Pine, dressed in classic mid-70's garb and hair, is the ne'er-do-well useless son who is finding his place in the world. Freddy Rodriquez, a favorite of mine, is very good as Gustavo and just about steals the story. Dennis Farina plays himself, but "himself" is always an interesting guy <g>

The film is set at a time when all of the wineries didn't have big showrooms and didn't even charge for tastings--and wine is a whole $6 bucks a bottle! But the basic story is a good one, and although they have fictionalized much of it, the wines were made and they did win. Following that, a small article in Time magazine brought Napa and its wines to a wider consumer base.

The problem is that the screenwriters included a fictional character to support a unnecessary fictional love story. Also problematic is that the script actually makes the secondary characters more interesting than the lead characters. For example, there is a secondary storyline about the winemakers assistant, Gustavo (although oddly, the winemaker who actually created the winning wine isn't even mentioned - what's with that?). Gustavo is the son of a field hand who has been making his own wine on the side while working for Barrett. He dreams of making wines and knows that he has to goods to deliver. (In real life he eventually opens his own boutique winery, GustavoThrace.) But Gustavo's story was actually more compelling than the Barrett prodigal son one, and I wish more time had been spent on it. He also forms the third side of the love triangle and the problem is that even though he's cast as the guy who loses the girl, you can't help but feel he really should have gotten the girl (despite Chris Pine's considerable attractions <g>)

But of course, nobody should have gotten the girl because they didn't need the girl to tell this story in the first place; it could have stood on its own without all that. I suppose the argument could be made the girl was representative of the female winemakers who would come to Napa, but that's a stretch. Mostly the character is just there to get wet and add sex appeal.

So it's this kind of thing where the story hits some bumps. This is not to say it sucks, it doesn't. As long as you're willing to accept that except for the outcome of the French tasting, it's pretty much fiction, I give it a very solid B- for entertainment value and good acting.

But it could have been an A with a little more care in the direction and in the script.
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on February 25, 2009
I think this is such a wonderful story, totally brought to life by the filmmakers. A copy of the movie + a bottle of wine makes a perfect gift for wine lovers. Watching the tale of the opening of the wine industry with all the beauty of the California wine country is a delight. And it's funny and romantic too.
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on July 9, 2016
This is a finely crafted film-- smart, literate, funny, witty, tight as a drum. It is based in true events. The scenery and cinematography are awesome, capturing the beautiful sunlit vineyards and rolling hills of Napa. The musical score is a spot on fit. A very bitter, mean-spirited, beleaguered Napa vintner, as the story goes, is giving his last shot at producing a worthy wine. His behavior towards his hasn't-outgrown-it hippie son is pretty abusive and his approach to conflict is to box it out with him. The standout performances are those of Chris Pine ( the son, Bo Barrett) and Alan Rickman (Steven Spurrier), the pretentious Brit, expert in French wines, who stages the ultimate contest between the wines of France and those of California. He tastes himself silly and comically, sampling all the Napa wines for the event. This historical competition in 1976 actually put California wine growers on the global map. While this may seem a rather easy and effortless film, it took some brainy, talented folks to create that feel; among them, Jody Savin, who wrote the screenplay, and Randall Miller, who co-wrote and directed.
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on July 6, 2016
I enjoyed Bottle Shock. It is based on the 1976 wine competition termed the "Judgment of Paris", when California wine defeated French wine in a blind taste test. It's a gentle, witty, feel good movie and the good guys win. Rickman travels to Napa Valley in search of wine for the competition. He owns a struggling wine shop in Paris and he hopes the publicity will help his business. There he meets Bill Pullman and Chris Pine, a father and son duo, who run their own vineyard. There are some ups and downs along the way but it all ends happily.

I was at college in 1976 and I fondly remember the clothes, the music, and the hair. Nostalgia may be why I like this film. Bottle Shock also has a terrific ensemble cast. Alan Rickman is superb as the snobbish wine expert who organizes the competition. Denis Farina is excellent as his friend and customer. The Californian wine-makers are likable rogues who make great wine. Bottle Shock is a small indie movie which was shown at Sundance, but it did keep me entertained.
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VINE VOICEon June 27, 2016
This story of a little California winery in the 1970s that competed with the French wineries in a contest is enjoyable to watch and especially elevated by the performance of the late Alan Rickman. As a little wine shop owner, Rickman had impeccable comedic timing and a droll way of portraying British snobbery. His character's friendship with Dennis Farina's character was engaging and led to a turning point in the plot. Rickman was a joy to watch all the way through the film. The father-son conflict between Bill Pullman's and Chris Pine's characters typified the conflict of hippie sons and daughters in the 1970s with their establishment parents, and the struggles of the little winery to compete with the French wineries in an era before California wine was recognized as fine wine introduced the problems the story needed to be meaningful. I had seen this movie several years ago, but it is worth another view, especially for Rickman's performance.
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on March 11, 2016
On the occasion of the anniversary of the Paris tasting, which this awful film purports to recount, time to set the record straight. The movie says "Based on a true story". Hardly. It takes the wonderful true story of a poor Yugoslav immigrant, Mike Grgich, who arrives in CA without a penny to his name and works alongside several famous wine makers to learn the ropes and who ultimately lands a job at Chateau Montelena and changes it. Instead the movie posits a worthless no account son, warring with his father, joined by a hippie woman intern and a chip on his shoulder Mexican and places them at Chateau Montelena next to the going broke father. The Mexican makes the wine, because Mexicans know the land. In reality the broke father, Jim Barret, in fact was a wealthy Southern Cal lawyer backed by mega rich shopping center developer Ernie Hahn. The distortions in the movie are too much for words. Instead of the compelling true story we get Hollywood stereotypical narratives: father son conflict, discrimination against worthy Hispanics, a 2010 bar scene transported back to 1976. In short the film is a butchery of reality.
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