August 13, 2008

Bottle Shock

How do you get rid of your split ends?

Grade: C +

Director: Randall Miller

Starring: Chris Pine, Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, Rachael Taylor, Freddy Rodriguez, and Dennis Farina

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

Comparing the Napa-set dramedy Bottle Shock to Sideways would be like sipping boxed plonk after a quality pinot noir. There is probably a good movie to be made about the 1976 seminal Parisian wine tasting in which California’s upstart vineyards bested the finest French vintages. Unfortunately, writer-director Randall Miller’s watered-down script squanders a game cast and gorgeous scenery in this contrived trifle.

Subplots are cultivated only to quickly wither on the vine, such as a love triangle between a scruffy winery heir (Chris Pine), a Latino farmhand (Freddy Rodriguez), and a comely intern (Rachael Taylor). As English expatriate and struggling vintner Steven Spurrier, Alan Rickman gives the film’s standout performance, even if his repeated, near-orgasmic reactions to sampling everything from chardonnay to KFC grow tiresome. Indeed, this is a film in which a mere sip of fine cabernet sauvignon prompts instant lovemaking inside rickety shacks sitting atop vineyard vistas, and where one character attests “the smell of the vineyard is like inhaling birth.” Coming soon to a cable TV network near you.

Neil Morris

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