Movie Review by Susan Hodgetts
Starring: Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Eliza Dushku, Freddie Rodriguez
Director: Randall Miller
Sluggish, drab and with limp notes like a second-rate Chardonnay, slow-burning drama Bottle Shock will make you want to pop a cork in it fairly swiftly, despite the presence of the mighty Alan Rickman.
Based on the true story of the infamous ‘Judgement of Paris’ in 1976, Paris-based English sommelier Steven Spurrier (Rickman) is looking at ways to boost his business. He catches a whiff of a rumour about California producing wines (ha! the cheek!), and, half-determined to disprove such a nonsense, the starchy-collared Englishman decides to take a trip to the Napa Valley. He intends to usurp the best wines he can find in the Orange County and pitch them head to head in a blind taste test against a selection of French ones upon his return to Paris.
In California he clashes with Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman), a man whose obsessive compulsive need to wreck the rest of his life to produce the perfect chardonnay is making him a little cranky. Cue familial arguments between cranky Jim and his hippie son Bo, plus an irrelevant and contrived love-triangle between Bo, Sam – a female intern at the vineyard – and Gustavo, Jim’s Mexican foreman (even more irrelevant) who is also secretly making his own wine (because everyone’s at it you see).
Alan Rickman’s wine snob occasionally mildly amuses but this film is the result of a plodding script and direction so pedestrian it should have its own car-free zone. Pullman’s underdog whinger needs a good spanking to stop him drowning in his own self-pity before he drowns in his own wine and perhaps poor old Gustavo would be more interesting in a different film altogether.
Some may find it charming and wistful, others may find the direction stilted as if it were episode #170 of an early 80s teatime drama, with the love scenes being amongst the most mechanical this reviewer has seen in quite some while. These uninspired shots are so creaky you wonder if the screen will split in two, whilst the script is like a cabernet that has been left too long and turned to vinegar. Occasionally you may make the odd attempt at a gentle titter but it seems as if the script has drunkenly fallen into a gentle doze like that old great-aunt who has been drinking sherry at the party all afternoon.
Ok so enough with the wine puns now. Time for a decent tipple.