Monday, February 09, 2009

Bottle Shock: Grade C

Bottle Shock (2008)
Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Freddy Rodriquez, Chris Pine, Dennis Farina, Rachael Taylor. Co-writer and director Randall Miller.

This is a wine-lover’s indulgence, in the spirit of Sideways. Set in 1976, it dramatizes the true story of how a Napa valley vineyard won a blind tasting in Paris, an event that launched the success of California wines around the world. Pullman owns the scrappy vineyard in Calistoga. Pine is his hippie loser son. They are visited by the British owner of a Parisian wine shop (Rickman), who is curious about California wines. He sets up the competition in Paris that results in the California victory.

I enjoyed scenes of golden sun falling on ripening grapes, and of sampling barrels in the cellar. Winemaking is glorified, but there is not much actual information about it. Pretty pictures and fine-sounding turns of phrase substitute for facts. The dialog is pedestrian, although there are a few good exchanges. Pullman: “Why don’t I like you?” Rickman: “Because you think I’m an asshole, but I’m not really. I’m just British.” The scenery is nice, how could it not be, but cinematography is unimaginative. How many swooping aircraft shots over vines do we really need? Acting is clunky, probably constrained by the one-dimensional, stereotyped characters. Rickman’s considerable talent, especially, is underutilized. The story is formulaic and melodramatic, something you would expect to see on television. As a mildly interesting, inoffensive, quasi-historical drama, this choice passes the time.

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