Like steak and Cabernet or Champagne and Caviar, Mutineer Magazine believes that fine beverage and culture go hand in hand. Enter “Bottle Shock”, the new Hollywood film about wine and well… I’m not exactly sure.
The movie is supposed to be about the famed “Judgment of Paris”, which was a wine tasting in 1976 in which California wines scored higher than the best French wines, putting California’s Napa Valley on the global wine scene. This was an event that had huge economic and cultural consequences for California and the United States, and as such, turning the story into a film made perfect sense.
The problem is that the film was “Hollywood-ized” somewhere between concept and silver screen into a saccharin coated, disjointed, rambling, “made for TV” mess.
Okay, here is a sign that you are on the wrong track with your screenplay: Steven Spurrier was quoted by Decanter Magazine as saying “There is hardly a word that is true in the script and many, many pure inventions as far as I am concerned.” Spurrier was 34 when he traveled to California to scout out California wines…the movie has him at 60 years old.
Alan Rickman portrays Steven Spurrier in the movie, the character that organizes the tasting, and is written to be a 60 year old British wine snob. Spurrier was not happy with how he was portrayed as an arrogant wine snob, probably the filmmakers “tak[ing] some creative liberties to make the story work on a dramatic level”, according to the press packet given to me at the screening. The rest of the two dimensional characters are basically the “Chateau Montelena Show”, with Rachael Taylor’s “Sam the gorgeous intern” just adding fat to the film, and Chris Pine’s “Bo Barrett” a stoner that is just, kind of, there. He’s supposed to be having a difficult time getting along with his father, Jim Barrett, played by Bill Pullman, but while the angst is technically there, it is unfounded and boring as hell. Bill Pullman has some good moments in this film, but there just isn’t enough there for him to work with.
The movie focuses too much on Chateau Montelena and on the relationships within the winery, making the movie feel more like a cheesy primetime drama than a captivating movie. It’s really funny too, because Decanter also reported Bottle Shock spokesperson Nadine Jolson as “stress[ing] that Bottle Shock was not financed by Chateau Montelena: the only connection with the property that it was being filmed there…” Ok…? What about the Chateau Montelena Chardonnay being the main wine in the movie, the father-son feel good story surrounding Jim and Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena, all of the characters surrounding Chateau Montelena, or the scenes with the Barretts and Steven Spurrier outside of the Chateau Montelena property? What’s more, little mention (a footnote right before the credits) is made about Stag’s Leap, which won the Judgment of Paris contest for red wines, an accomplishment just as incredible (if not more so) than Chateau Montelena winning for the white wines.
The movie makes little mention of Mike Grgich, the, um, guy that made the winning Chateau Montelena wine, but he was probably cut to make room for Rachael Taylor’s “Sam the gorgeous intern”. (There is controversy surrounding Grgich’s credit on the winning wine, but he should’ve been more prominent regardless)
The aforementioned Spurrier is working on the “official” version of a movie depicting the events of the famous Paris Tasting which will carry the same name as George M. Taber’s Book, “Judgment of Paris”. Who is George M. Tabor? He was the only journalist at the event, and he attended on behalf of Time Magazine. Is he into Bottle Shock? Nah, not really. He’s supporting Spurrier’s version, and I don’t blame him. Aside from all the controversy around accuracy and so forth, he is portrayed as unlikable and gruff in the film.
Bleh, I really wanted to like this film, and I find myself in a quandary: Do I support it in the name of fine beverage, or do I strike it down with great vengeance and furious anger? I say hold out for the real deal. Stay tuned for a full report on the film in the next issue of Mutineer Magazine. Viva the Mutineer!