August 25, 2008

300 Words About: Bottle Shock

Looks more like a commercial for Budweiser than for "Chateau Montelena"...

Like a bottle of fine wine, Bottle Shock opens with tantalizing promise. The sweeping views of vineyards in Napa Valley forecast a warm and charming account of the true story of the breakthrough of California wines in the 1970's. Like a box of cheap wine, however, Bottle Shock unfortunately becomes a regret before you're halfway through it. If Sideways was the perfect Pinot Noir, Bottle Shock is Miles' dreaded Merlot.

Director/Co-Writer Randall Miller lets all of the interesting potential of his source material ferment into ridiculous subplots about dull romance and daddy issues, so instead of an intelligent, inspiring, and engrossing look at how British oenophile Steven Spurrier discovered Chateau Montelena in California's Napa Valley, Bottle Shock exists as a bloated, jocular farce that features a two-minute wet t-shirt contest with poor Rachael Taylor (Transformers) as its only contestant. It's one of several moments that make you remember, "Oh, yeah - Randall Miller also directed Houseguest and The Sixth Man."

Maybe I could overlook the stale writing if it wasn't the great Alan Rickman (Sweeney Todd) who was being fed such terrible lines. Actually I take that back - I couldn't overlook it no matter what, and the acting by Bill Pullman (who along with literally half the cast was just in Miller's Nobel Son) and Chris Pine (Captain Kirk in Star Trek next year) as father and son is just plain flat. That both Rickman and Dennis Farina (The Grand) are sidelined so we can watch teens behaving badly is probably the most unforgivable offense of Bottle Schlock (excuse me, Shock), along with, of course, the short shrift given to the story of the wine itself.

Though I've been to Napa Valley a couple of times and toured wineries, and I saw the oddly ignored Mondovino a few years ago, I'm nothing close to an expert on wine. About all I know by this point is that I prefer white over red and that Champagne is a place. But I don't buy wine and I rarely drink it; something about the stereotypical culture of it has prevented me from fully embracing it.

It's pretty ironic, then, that I'd much rather spend a day at the vineyard with the snobbiest of oenophiles than hang out with any of the characters of Bottle Shock for an afternoon.

16 comments:

  1. Wasting Rickman is a crime against cinema. That's too bad, I was hoping there might be something to this one.

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  2. And I'm with both of you on this one. I had what were, in hindsight, unreasonably high expectations for this one. So much wasted potential here.

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  3. Geez guys. I liked the movie! It was a light summer movie that made me leave the theater smiling. It certainly is not like Sideways, so don't go to it expecting it to be so.

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  4. I agree with Craig Kennedy. Crime against cinema!

    I wanted to check this one out (on DVD) but maybe I won't. That sucks.

    Man on Wire, here I come!

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  5. Too bad ... I had hopes for this one.

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  6. Agreed, Nick and Matthew. There's just something about Sideways that makes it last.

    Thanks for stopping by, Jezebel. Had I gone in with your attitude it probably would have worked better! Alas, my hopes were too high.

    I'm not one to steer people completely away from any movie, Scott and Rick - I mean, I still think people should watch The Happening to understand how bad movies can be.

    Have fun on the wire, Scott. Don't look down...

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  7. I completely agree with you on BOTTLE SHOCK, but not just because it is not SIDEWAYS, but because it is static and torturous to sit through, which is basically what you yourself conveyed in your fine latest entry in the 300 series.

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  8. Thanks, Sam. I did feel validated when I saw you only give it two stars on Monday in the Watercooler. Look forward to receiving your review if you get to this one among the dozens you see each week.

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  9. Thanks for the kind words Dan. I will indeed send you a review of it at some point,(written completely in my own words) but I know you are still waiting on THE GROCER'S SON..........LOL.........your wonderful personality is particularly reassuring on the 'dark' days.

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  10. Don't remind me of the Grocer's Son, Sam. I lost my draft of it and I don't have the gumption to start over.

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  11. Certainly, Sam. Don't think I'm holding you to that review, though! It's often hard to churn them out so long after seeing the film.

    I can never figure out what reviews I want to write and which ones I don't. What does that mean? You seem to have it pretty well figured out, Craig.

    The biggest tragedy, though, is that more words haven't been written about The Grocer's Son, and it remains unseen by a lot of people who would probably love it.

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  12. Yowzers. I had a general idea of your feelings on the film, and went in expecting to hate it, and I actually ended up liking it. We had totally different reactions.

    You're right, some of the romantic subplots stalled and went nowhere, but the cinematography, along with Pullman, Pine, Rickman, Farina, and Rodriguez's performances really carried me through. It's interesting to note that 2 of the lamest characters in the film - the intern and the bartender - were also completely fabricated.

    This film made me want to go to Napa valley, just like Vicky Cristina Barcelona made me want to go to Spain.

    I will agree with you on the wet t-shirt scene - totally unnecessary and needlessly stupid.

    But I actually really loved Rickman's lines and I enjoyed the father-son dynamic between Pullman and Pine. Odd how we could respond so differently.

    I would much rather spend time with these people than with Miles or his friends. Hmmmmmmm. Fascinating how we can diverge so much on this one.

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  13. You're right, Evan. That is pretty weird, but it turns out that I haven't found someone who loved both movies. It's like a classic debate between red wine and white wine.

    Looks like this is going to have be settled by a taste-off!

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