Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bottle Shock

DAN - In 1976 a competition was held in Paris in which obscure Californian wines were compared with the best that the French had to offer. At the time, France was producing what was considered to be the best wine in the world. This event, which came to be known as the “Judgment of Paris,” was the basis for Bottle Shock, directed by Randall Miller.

Even without seeing this movie, its ending shouldn’t be difficult to predict. The film’s tendency toward convention is its most obvious weakness. Sure, there are some unique moments here and there, but they’re all contained in a color-by-number story.

The movie takes place largely in Napa Valley, which provides some beautiful scenery. This is one of the few positives that stood out to me.

Bottle Shock suffers from a lack of character development. Friends betray one another, friendships are seemingly broken, but everything is conveniently back to normal fifteen minutes later. The cast’s performances weren’t noteworthy, though I’m sure they’d benefit from a better screenplay. Even Alan Rickman, who is usually fun to watch, didn’t have much to work with.

Little risk was taken in the making of this movie. Perhaps the producers’ only gamble was in making a film about wine fanatics. It’s not exactly blockbuster material.

At one point in the film, the characters say, “Through hardship comes enlightenment... in grapes.” If the movie’s producers had adhered to this philosophy in regard to film, they might have ended up with something more than mediocre.

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STEVE - What starts off as an intriguing film of a love affair between a man and good wine slowly becomes a movie bogged down by a sour and uninteresting family relationship that kills the feeling of a good movie buzz.

Bottle Shock is one of those “based on a true story” type of movies. You know the type… the kind which is “loosely” based on a true story. And because it’s “loosely” based on a true story it allows the writer to take certain “privileges” of the plot in order to create those typical “Hollywood Movie” clich├ęs, because that’s what “sells” these days. It’s really quite unfortunate, because Bottle Shock could have been something unique. Instead it became another typical film of the modern Hollywood cinema.

However, this film does have a strong point, that point being Alan Rickman. Bottle Shock truly works best when focusing on the character and story of Alan Rickman’s Steven Spurrier. Spurrier is a British wine lover who owns a little shop in France called “The Academy of Wine.” The year is 1976, and it’s his idea to host a wine tasting contest between the two countries of France and America (this is the true story part). Rickman gives a wonderful performance as the snobby connoisseur of wine. His character and performance is so enjoyable that whenever he walks on screen you are simply unable to pull your eyes away. Unfortunately, every moment he’s not on screen, the film becomes a boor.

The movie is filled to the brim with mediocre plot, acting, and everything else. And it’s only because of Alan Rickman and his character’s storyline that I give this film a pass. Ironically enough, the movie works best when it focuses on the true events of the story, and not dealing with the “loosely based” characters and their family issues.

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