The Less Desirables Movie of the Week, brought to you by a/perture cinemas, the Official Movie Sponsor of The Less Desirables, is Bottle Shock (2008), starring: Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Alan Rickman.
Per IMDb: “The story of the early days of California wine making featuring the now infamous, blind Paris wine tasting of 1976 that has come to be known as ‘Judgment of Paris.'”
Bill Pullman and Chris Pine play father and son, Jim and Bo Barrett (respectively), two Californian wine growers with different perspectives on business, wine and life. Steven Spurrier (Rickman), a British ex-pat, is a Sommelier and wine shop owner looking for a way to save his shop in Paris. A friend of his, and sometimes his only customer, Maurice (played by Dennis Faurina), an American that spends a lot of time in Paris, tries to convince him that there’s good stuff coming out of California but Spurrier refuses to believe that there are any wines of quality coming from the “new world.”
Spurrier sets off to California to see what the buzz is about. He meets up with the Barretts at Chateau Montelena and Jim thinks it’s just another way for the French to make fun of Californian wines, so he sends him away. Bo, however takes up with him and shows him around the different vineyards and eventually, secretly slips a bottle of the family’s Chardonnay to Spurrier to take back with him to submit to the Judgement of Paris wine tasting competition. Jim still doesn’t know that Bo gave the wine to Spurrier.
A strange technique in which there is a lack of oxygen present during the wine-making process makes the wine actually turn brown in the bottles. Jim orders the whole batch be destroyed. It turns out that is only a temporary problem as the wine still tastes perfect. A local bar owner happened to block the destruction of the wine and has it available to Bo, still without Jim’s knowledge. When it’s revealed that all is well with the wine and that the inclusion of the wine in the judgement is going to happen, the community pretty much demands that Bo be the one to represent them all. I’m stopping the story here. If I give anymore away, then it’s going to be a TLD-FD moment and I don’t want to do that.
I will say that while some of this story is fabricated it is, at least, based on true events in 1976 with the real-life people these characters are based on. It is history and we know where the wine industry (especially the Californian industry) is now in this country. I’m sure you can figure out the ending on your own. But, to me, the interesting parts are where Spurrier, the snob, comes around to Californian wine after he’s shown the hospitality of the community and tastes their wines. He turns himself around when he realizes he was wrong about these country folk. The interaction, again – mostly fabricated, between Jim and Bo is interesting. They take their frustrations out on each other in a homemade boxing ring and Jim usually just beats up Bo the whole time. Chris Pine wears a silly looking long, blond wig throughout the film, but I can over look that, mostly.
Steven Spurrier, upon reading the script said: “There is hardly a word that is true in the script… They are depicting me as an impossibly effete snob. The idea of Alan Rickman playing me is most bizarre and about as far from historical truth as one can get. He’s a really nice guy, but I was a very young 34 at the time” (Bordeaux Undiscovered Wine Shop, 2014). Nevertheless, Rickman, to me, did a fine job in the film. He’s one of my favorite actors of all-time, so maybe I’m biased? That on top of being a lover of food films, food television shows, food documentaries and food in general, I found this quite intriguing. I have met Bill Pullman, and had conversations with him on several occasions thanks to our friends at RiverRun International Film Festival, to which he’s been the last two years and he’s also on the advisory board. He’s a great guy to hang with and he loves to drink beer.
Rotten Tomatoes rates it at only 48% Fresh, saying: “Bottle Shock fails to properly utilize the inspiring true tale at its core, settling instead for an ordinary, plodding account.” The audience score isn’t much better at 58% – at least it’s over halfway. I don’t necessarily agree with that because I didn’t know it was based on real-life characters so I didn’t know it was tweaking the real, at all. IMDb rates it at 6.8 out of 10 stars. I do agree with that more than Rotten Tomatoes. I watched this film on Netflix and am rating it 4 stars.
Have you seen this film? Do you agree with me or the critics? If not, you should, I recommend it. Let me know what you’d like to see me review and, if I can find it, I’ll rate and review it.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“‘Wine is sunlight, held together by water.’ The poetic wisdom of the Italian physicist, philosopher, and stargazer, Galileo Galilei. It all begins with the soil, the vine, the grape. The smell of the vineyard – like inhaling birth. It awakens some ancestral, some primordial… anyway, some deeply imprinted, and probably subconscious place in my soul. “ – Steven Spurrier (Rickman)