Monday, 20 September 2010

Film Review: BOTTLE SHOCK (2008)

Co-writer/Director: Randall Miller
Running time: 105 mins (approx)
Certification (UK): 12

UK release date: 28th March 2009

Watched on Sky+ Monday 20th September 2010.


There have been one or two films about wine over the years, but very few about American wine. This independent film, I guess, looks to cash in on the critical success of the very enjoyable Sideways (2004). It is based on true events, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite hit the mark, for me at least. But more of that later.

This film tells the story of how, in 1976, Californian wines from the Napa valley became internationally acceptable. It all came about because a rather stuck-up wine expert, based in Paris, called Steven Spurrier decided to broaden his horizons and arrange a blind tasting of French and American wines. We then learn about the lives of those making the wine. In particular vineyard owner Jim Barrett and his son Bo, and some of the people they employ, Gustavo Brambila and Sam Fulton. Mr Spurrier goes to the Napa Valley and tastes all of the wines on offer. He makes a list of the best of them and samples are shipped to France for the tasting. And this is where history is made.

You would think, from my very short synopsis that the plot would concentrate on the Steven Spurrier character, but no. The vast majority of the film is taken up with the relationships between Jim, Bo, Sam and Gustavo. Although, yes, that part of the story was interesting up to a point, the important events were kind of just thrown in here and there. This made for quite a disjointed film that I found a little difficult to watch. Having said that the cinematography was spot on, some great use of the scenery and the light. Nobody particularly stood out, for me as far as performances go, though Alan Rickman was pretty good as Steven Spurrier. Honourable mentions go to Bill Pullman as Jim Barrett, Chris Pine as Bo Barrett, Rachael Taylor as Sam Fulton and Freddy Rodríguez as Gustavo Brambila.

Over all I didn’t warm to the characters in this film as much as I though I would and that made it kind of disappointing for me. The cinematography was good but the plot needed to be refined a lot more. It’s not a great film, but not a bad one either. I won’t be watching it again in a hurry, but if you’re not averse to downing a bottle or two and you love the Napa Valley then I guess it’s recommended. Otherwise, maybe give it a miss.

My score: 6.1/10

IMDb Site:
Official Site:

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