SIFF Sighting: BOTTLE SHOCK (comedy, USA)
Today I screened BOTTLE SHOCK, which will be the closing night film at the 34th annual Seattle International Film Festival next month.
The movie tells the true story of a California winery in 1976 that beat the French and earned "Best Chardonnay" status in a famous Paris wine tasting competition. That feat, unprecedented at the time, was not an easy achievement and this narrative proves it.
Bill Pullman plays Jim, the rough-around-the-edges owner of the winery who is too hard on his son, too hard on his employees and too pessimistic to realize he's doing something right with the production of his chardonnay.
Alan Rickman plays Steven, the British sponsor of the competition, whose only motivation for holding the match is to revive his failing wine business.
The supporting characters Bo (Chris Pine), who is Jim's son; Gustavo (Freddy Rodriguez), Jim's employee; Sam (Rachael Taylor), the girl they're both in love with; and Maurice (Dennis Farina), who is a business neighbor of Steven's, all border on being unecessary at times, but them mostly redeem themselves by the film's end.
As would be expected, the scenery (mostly Northern California wine country) is stunning, but that coupled with the fact that the movie has a fairly slow start makes it very challenging not to nod off.
That said, if you're able to stay with it until the main events at the end, it's quite delightful. Alan Rickman is perfectly cast as the uptight Brit and it's nice to see Six Feet Under's Freddy Rodriguez stretching his legs in a meatier role as the flawed employee.
The humorous situations toward the end redeem the rest of the slow-paced scenes and you'll learn a little something about the French-Californian wine rivalry in the process.
It's also a requirement that you stock your cellar with at least one bottle of chardonnay before you leave for the theater, because once the film is over, you will salivate for a glass (or two).