Bottle Shock: Great Concept, Not Great Movie


It’s a great concept populated by great actors that works hard to make its audience feel great! Only, sadly, Bottle Shock is far from a great movie—a little too sweet to the taste, almost sickly so. Both ham-fisted and half-assed, this story of the early days of California winemaking (circa 1976, the year “California defeated all Gaul,” as Time put it back when West Coast vino trumped France’s) is unsure whether it’s a dark comedy, an oenological thriller, or an overwrought “true-life” underdog melodrama. So instead it’s a little bit of all those things, and not much of anything once uncorked and left to sit. As vintner Jim Barrett, Bill Pullman is either one hard-headed sumbitch or else just a crazy dude in serious need of institutionalization. (The movie makes it hard to tell.) Director and co-writer Randall Miller should have kept the film small and low-key, like Alan Rickman, who delivers the sole great performance as Steven Spurrier, a snooty Paris wine-store owner that the actor manages to make rather affable. Spurrier heads to the States expecting to find American wines about as palatable as toilet water, but is quietly amazed by the quality of the product, letting on with only the slightest of bemused grins. The movie should have been more like Rickman: sparkling and light, with just a hint of acid. Instead, it’s a huge gulp of vinegar.