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Bottle Shock

Wine, like most things in life, is about feeling.  Like any substance providing a sensorial experience, its popularity has created an industry devoted to sharing the moment of its first taste. Inspired by true events, Bottle Shock’s group of beverage merchants have a shared passion in creating their own liquid dynasty.  That their efforts created history shows the power of this very delectable drink.
Parisian wine seller Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman) is in a quandary.  Keen to ramp up his ailing business an idea forms to hold a blind taste-test with French wine competing against California’s new imports.  Dubbed the ‘Judgement of Paris’ the 1976 contest would have a marked affect on California’s Napa Valley wineries.  One of its vineyard operators, Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman), would feel the most rewards forging a new bond with his wayward son, Bo (Chris Pine), that wine’s great fluidity would only strengthen.
Slightly faltering in its marriage between fact and fiction, Bottle Shock unearths some interesting subtexts.  More than any other alcoholic drink, wine appears to uplift an event’s atmosphere.  Where champagne is often associated with grand occasions, wines are noted for creating more intimate moods.  This rounds the package its makers sell in complementing social gatherings with vintage ranges making instant experts of its drinkers.  Played against America’s Bi-Centennial backdrop, the protagonists pride in their craft makes for engaging viewing, with the industry’s latent parochial snobbery eventually giving way to begrudging respect.
Using a contest of wills between father and son as its main thrust, much interest is gained from their tug of war between old and new ideals.  It’s especially pleasing seeing Rickman and Pullman make welcome cinematic returns with only the pacing letting the movie down.  This is keenly felt in several sequences adding nothing to the overall outcome.  The shoe-horning of these scenes in order to make events appear more exciting tends to drag the film down. Coupled with a rather lacklustre performance from Pine as Bo, Bottle Shock dangerously veers on the edge of becoming as stale as corked plonk.  Thankfully it comes alive towards the end with the sweeping aerial shots of the expansive Californian vineyards perfectly enhancing the somewhat arch script.
Basically a traditional ‘David vs. Goliath’ tale, Bottle Shock’s many quirky moments enables some degree of individualism.  Nicely shot and enlivened by Rickman’s snide presence, it proves there is always a story to tell behind each lovingly prepared Chardonnay.
Rating out of 10:  6

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