Bottle ShockDirected by: Randall Miller Cast: Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Alan Rickman and Freddy Rodríguez Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: PG-13
Plot: Based on a true story from the early days of Napa Valley getting noticed in the wine community and the blind wine testing of 1976 in Paris known as the "Judgment of Paris."
Who’s It For? If you love Napa Valley or the history of wine, then this film will give you a glimpse into that world.
Expectations: Zero. I knew nothing except Alan Rickman, Freddy Rodríguez and Bill Pullman were in it. I loved my trip to Napa a couple years ago with the wife, so as soon as I saw that, I was on board, though I have to admit, I never heard of "Judgment of Paris."
Actors: Bill Pullman as Jim Barrett: Pullman is definitely entering into that stage of the older, gruff man's man, but his character just doesn't resonate. Here's a guy who risked everything, leaving his corporate job to start a vineyard, but he won't enter a contest? Since this is a main character there needed to be more definition. Score: 4
Chris Pine as Bo Barrett: I am not a hippy-hater, but damn did I was Bo to get a haircut. Pine won't have that hair when he's playing Captain Kirk in J.J. Abrams new Star Trek flick, right? Also, why are we supposed to like him? Because he means well? Because he's cool? I was just never able to identify with this character. Score: 3
Alan Rickman as Steven Spurrier: As the lonely Brit living in Paris, Rickman travels to Napa Valley assuming he will hate the wine. There wasn't a break-through, filled with chills moment, where he embraces this new discovery. Instead, his best moments are taking bites of KFC and guacamole. Still, it is Rickman. Score: 5
Freddy Rodríguez as Gustavo: There was some odd choices here, like Rodríguez never making eye contact in dramatic scenes with Pullman. Plus, the film truly abandons this character and it's hard to take. First, the relationship with the intern Sam (Rachael Taylor) is completely tossed aside for no reason, and there was no resolution with how Gustavo's wine performed in the competition, even though everyone was crying over the beauty of it throughout the film. Score: 3
Talking: Wine is praised, but it comes off as preachy instead of natural. Dennis Farina adds some joy to the film as the American in Paris, bantering with Steven, but otherwise it's just moments about how you must feel the soil under your fingernails. Score: 4
Sights & Sounds: There is 70s rock throughout the film and then a hint of this odd Paris-like score, the two just don't fit together. Napa Valley looks fantastic, but it would be next to impossible to screw that up. Score: 5
OVERALL It feels very staged. Sure, a wine connoisseur or Napa Valley die-hard will get just enough out of Bottle Shock but it never taps into anything more. In one of the main showcase scenes, Gustavo does blind tasting to win money at a bar, and there are two locals playing pool egging him on. Nothing feels real about it. There are nice moments, such as discovering how vineyards started taking money for tastings (if that's true) but not enough to win me over. The focus should have been on Gustavo and Steven instead of the bickering father and son. With wine there is a delicate balance of snobbery and beauty, Sideways gets it right and allows the audience to laugh at and along. Bottle Shock is like that bottle of wine that makes you feel like you paid too much for what you got. Score: 4 out of 10