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  Publicity Stills of
"Bottle Shock"
(Courtesy of GV)

In English & French with English subtitles for French dialogues
Director: Randall Miller
Cast: Alan Rickman, Chris Pine, Bill Pullman, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriguez, Dennis Farina, Eliza Dushku, Bradley Whitford, Miguel Sandoval
RunTime: 1 hr 50 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: NC-16 (Brief Drug Use)
Official Website: http://www.bottleshockthemovie.com/

Opening Day: 9 October 2008


In 1976, a small American winery sent shock waves through the wine industry by besting the exalted French wines in a blind tasting, putting California wines on the map for good.

Novice vintner Jim Barrett risked everything to realize his dream of creating the perfect hand-crafted California Chardonnay. Meanwhile in Paris, struggling wine seller Steven Spurrier came up with an idea for a publicity stunt to help his floundering shop. Little did Spurrier and Barrett realize they were about to change the history of wine forever.

Movie Review:

Wine is not exactly a fascinating subject to be put on film, in the sense that not many people can actually afford to drink it on a regular basis, let alone watch a film about it. It has been previously touched upon in 2004's "Sideways" but only as a common interest of the main characters. 'Bottle Shock' gives us an insight into the events leading up to the 'Judgment of Paris' in 1976, when French wines were long considered to be the best until California wines made their mark in a blind wine-tasting competition.

It all began when British wine shop owner Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) decided to sponsor a wine-tasting competition in the hopes of reviving his business in Paris. After some persuasion from his American friend Maurice (Dennis Farina), he went off to Napa Valley, California in search of wines worthy enough to participate in the competition. Among the wines he encountered were those made by Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman), an ambitious vintner who gave up his job as a real estate attorney to fulfill his dream of making the best wine in California. When it turned out that both Jim's business and relationship with his slacker son Bo (Chris Pine) were on the rocks, the road to recognition for Jim's wines was not going to be smooth sailing at all.

The highlight of the film is definitely Alan Rickman. Taking a break from wielding magic wands in the Harry Potter movies, Rickman is superb as the straight-faced wine expert Spurrier. Although Spurrier seems to be cold-hearted for most of the film, he is still a likable character with the occasional smirks, much like Rickman's Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. The sight of him eating Kentucky Fried Chicken for the very first time is priceless by itself. Rickman is ably supported by a cast consisting of a mix of talented veterans Bill Pullman and Dennis Farina, as well as young up-and-coming actors Chris Pine (soon to be seen as Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek movie) and Freddy Rodriguez. Rachael Taylor (last seen in "Transformers") and Eliza Dushku are on hand to provide more eye candy.

The film allocates much of its running time to explore the relationship between Jim and Bo, who often resolved their differences by boxing each other. (Yes, they did. And they even boxed in a properly made boxing ring too.) On top of that, we get to see Bo's relationship with his co-worker and friend, Gustavo (Freddy Rodriguez) which evolved into a love triangle with Sam (Rachael Taylor) the vineyard intern coming into the picture. All of these are put together to form the setup of the film for its first half, resulting in a slow pace, only to gain energy in the second half to arrive at the nail-biting payoff during the wine-tasting competition.

Despite its label as a dramedy in some media, "Bottle Shock" falls rather short in the comedy department. Its humour leans more towards the subtle kind, most of which comes courtesy of Alan Rickman, with a few over-the-top moments here and there. Not many laugh-out-loud instances to be found, that's for sure. Adding to the visual appeal of the film is the magnificent scenery of the vineyard where the grapes look so fresh you would want to take a bite at them. Mark Adler's French-inspired music makes the film more light-hearted as well. "Bottle Shock" is an example of a film in which the performances of the actors matter more than the overall storyline. At closer look, there is not much to tell about California wines beating their French counterparts in a competition, thus the inclusion of all the relationship turmoil as fillers for the running length. At least the film serves another purpose in teaching us a thing or two about wine, as seen from its double-meaning title.

'Bottle shock' meaning 1: An actual phenomenon in the study of wine making in which the wine's taste or color can be temporarily affected by the contact with oxygen when it is first bottled or is shaken during travel.

'Bottle shock' meaning 2: The shock upon knowing that the French have been beaten in the field of wine making by the Americans.

Movie Rating:

(A film worth watching for the delightful performance of Alan Rickman in spite of its draggy first half)

Review by Tan Heng Hau


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