Saturday, January 26, 2008

Get ready to be Bottle Shock'd

Clear your palate, clean those glasses and surf back in time to 7 years after Woodstock. This one's got legs.

Bill Pullman, Alan Rickman are just two of the fantastic ensemble cast in Bottle Shock. It wins my vote for the best in Sundance. It's not a comedy but I laughed louder than I have for a long time and so did the entire audience of the Egyptian Theatre in Park City. It's based on the true story of the birth of the Californian wine industry.

Life is easy for Bo Barrett (Chris Pine, above right). His dad (Bill Pullman, above left), quit his job as a partner in a law firm and invested his life savings to setup Chateau Montelena in the beautiful Napa Valley. His days are spent tending to the vines, surfing, smoking pot, boxing, and chilling in the sun. He still has his scruffy long hippy hair and has a casual approach to everything in life. Including his clothes.

His buddy (Freddy Rodriguez, above right), is a true wine connoisseur. He can taste and select wine to the exact grape and year without looking. Which comes in handy when he's challenged with a bet, which if he loses, requires the new girl, Sam, played by the lovely Rachael Taylor (above left), to slow dance with a total stranger.

Meantime, Steven Spurrier a British wine shop owner in France, wonderfully played by Alan Rickman (above), is getting restless with his French based wine business. He wants to create a bit of a stir in the market to show that it's not only French vineyards that can produce great tasting wine. So he sets up an American-French competition which the French were expected to win, but the result changes the entire way we select and drink wine today.

The film takes you through their journey, which was not one of a considered strategy and well-worked out plan. Californians don't work that way, at least not in 1976. It just seemed like a good idea and it evolved. However their latest crop was producing discoloured wine, a term now known as bottleshock, and they are about to lose everything. Tempers flare and the closeknit team start to fall apart. Jim Barrett (Pullman) returns to the law firm to ask for his job back. They've hit rock bottom. How they recover from this creates some of the funniest moments in the film.

The script is a delight and writer/director Randall Miller, is clearly well versed in the cultural differences with Americans, English and French and the subtleties and nuances of each. These are wonderfully executed and Alan Rickman gives one of his best performances and is perfectly cast. Dennis Farina, who you'll know from Get Shorty and Saving Private Ryan, delivers one of the funniest lines. I won't spoil it but listen out for "the left-handed compliment" remark about English culture during the competition. It was such a truism that I'm sure it won't just be Americans, French and Scots who find it hilarious but amusing to our English cousins as well.

Despite working with some of the more experienced actors in Hollywood, our young stars also did a brilliant job playing their part well and taking us back to a time gone by and educating us with the detail of the event that changed the history of the wine business.

The filming style is traditional Hollywood with great use of focus and camera angles but the editing is noticeably fresh and it gives the film a smooth texture. Much like the fine wine it is portraying.

If Bottle Shock doesn't win an award during Sundance and pick up a major Hollywood deal, I think something is wrong. This is a great story, a great film and deserves a worldwide audience.
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