For 2015, I’m trying something a bit new. As I am sick of hearing people say “Oh, how haven’t you seen (insert movie here)?,” I am now on a mission to watch 365 movies that are new to me before 2016 rolls around. A movie a day sounds daunting to some, but trust me, I’m single, unemployed, and living back at home, so it’s pretty easy. Of course, many a food-focused film ended up in my Netflix queue, and the one I most recently watched was Bottle Shock, a film loosely based around the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976.
I won’t give away the outcome of the Judgment of Paris for the few of you out there who don’t know how it went, but I will say that many of the characters who appear in this film are huge snobs that believe French wine is the only wine. For them, the Paris Wine Tasting seems to be a way in which they can further prove that French wine is inherently superior to American. The idea that American wine could be on par with French isn’t just laughable, it’s completely unfathomable.
Alan Rickman embodies this entire sentiment best while portraying Steven Spurrier, a Brit who’s devoted his life to wine. As he hesitantly tries some KFC, begrudgingly sips his first California Chardonnay, and laughingly pays for free tastings, Rickman epitomizes the attitude of one who feels superior to everything around him. What makes it all funnier is that the French hardly want anything to do with him! He’s knocked down a few more pegs when he realizes that these Napa Valley wines are actually enjoyable. Of course, California wines could never be as good as French wines, but it’s still a shock for Spurrier all the same. He’s over-the-top in a refined way, and it works.
Rickman isn’t the only good thing about this film though. The scenery is beautiful, and for anyone who enjoys the Napa Valley landscape, it’s one of the strongest parts of Bottle Shock. At its core, this film is about the grapes and the passion that people put into wine, so it seems fitting that there are close-ups of the winemakers and their process. There’s not a lot of cheesy music or slow-motion shots involved, and the simple beauty of the vineyards are especially appreciated without all this extra frou-frou. Even better than the long shots of vineyards and the frames featuring dirty Paris streets is the airport scene towards the end of the film. As someone who has grown up in a time of security checks and baggage restrictions, the airports of the 1970s appear shockingly small, unprotected, and relaxed. The whole scene is unimaginable to me, but also one of the funniest and heartwarming. It feels like seventies all the way down to the bad hair, which I enjoy as someone several decades removed from this time period.
While I did like the film, there are a few missteps throughout it. Rickman brings fun life to Spurrier, but many of the characters from Chateau Montelena in California are a bit too much like caricatures. I am not one who enjoys a love triangle, and the one in this movie is so half-assed that I wish they had nixed the entire story line. Rachel Taylor, who plays the fictional Sam Fulton, is a good actress, yet she’s never allowed to delve into this role. She’s forced into a generic position where she plays the cute blonde with little agency and a lot of cleavage. As one of two female stars in Bottle Shock, I expected so much more than a contrived and boring love story that detracts from the heart of the film.
In the same vein, Gustavo is one of the most interesting characters; nevertheless, few of our questions about him are answered by the end. There’s a lot of effort put in to having us care about him with no follow-up. It’s as if the writers forgot two-thirds of the way through the film who Gustavo was and decided to just drop his story there. Seeing as how the real Gustavo wasn’t even working for Chateau Montelena when the Judgment of Paris occurred in 1976, I guess this lack of detail and thought isn’t too surprising. It’s just disappointing. Essentially, the characters who are made up of more fiction than fact are the most engaging ones and sadly end up being mistreated.
It’s not a film that will change the way you view the world because, well, at this point people know that Napa is putting out some awesome wine. However, for a breezy, relaxed night in, I think Bottle Shock is a fine choice. Still, opinions on this one cover a wide range, so I’d love you hear your opinion if you’ve seen it. Also, any movie recs for my 365 days of movies would be appreciated. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!