Friday surprise! I watched an unassigned DVD, and it was so remarkable I have no choice but tell you about it (briefly). So here’s a free bonus movie review. At the end of it, you’ll find the treasure you woke up today looking forward to: the game to determine Assignment #7. But until then, take it away, review of Bottle Shock!
Why’d I buy it?
It’s based on the true story of how American wines beat French wines in a blind taste test in France in 1976 and came to be considered world class. Interesting! I like wine. Plus my girlfriend was into wine and I thought it would be a thing we could watch together.
Why’d I never watch it?
She never wanted to. This was spring 2009. Then we spent all summer watching Battlestar Galactica. That fall I went to Ireland and ended up transitioning to whiskey. Sorry, wine, your loss.
But then last weekend I drank wine, and now I know what I’ve been missing.
We open at Chateau Montelena in Napa, home to Bo Barrett (played by Chris Pine, aka Reboot Captain Kirk), a partyin’ surf bum, and Bill Pullman, his no-nonsense dad. They don’t get along! And dad has mortgaged the vineyard three times. Stress! If they don’t release a good chardonnay this year, it’s curtains! But Bo is not working hard enough! They are so angry at each other, and they vent it by boxing in a makeshift ring with crummy old gloves.
In Napa, a new intern shows up named Sam. She is a cute girl and everyone is like “YOU’RE Sam?” I guess they expected a gross guy. Anyway Bo and Sam go out to Eliza Dushku’s bar, with a Mexican friend who knows everything about wine. There is a scene that is trying so hard to be amusing, where a trucker says something racist to the Mexican and they outwit him with hippy antics. Followed by an even harder-trying scene where our heroes take bar bets that the Mexican can sip any wine and tell what it is. They scam hundreds of dollars in this small-town bar where they are evidently regulars, these rapscallions.
So that’s our characters. Now, what happens? Well, we’ve got tons of scenes of people sipping wine and making beatific faces! But that’s a little thin. So the movie wisely pads itself with scenes of cars driving. “When in doubt, remember: audiences love looking at fields of wine plants” seems to have been the north star of decision-making on set.
Around minute 30, Alan Rickman arrives in Napa to pitch the idea of a France versus California wine-off. Finally the plot? Not really. Mainly lots of driving him across scenery from one winery to another, and him sipping at each one. As you might imagine, ’70s music plays the whole time.
Oh man, Bill Pullman is a total stress case. I know I already said that, but this guy. The vineyard is broke and he is always unpleasant to be around. He’s a dick to Alan Rickman, he punches out his son for sleeping with too many girls. And he fires the Mexican because he hears the Mexican is making his own wine on his own personal time. The Mexican offers to let him try some. Bill Pullman refuses and continues to fire him.
In response, the Mexican makes a big speech about growing up a poor field hand and having the soil in his blood and how you need that, you can’t just waltz in here and make wine like Bill Pullman is trying. It is a big ringing speech full of class consciousness? And we’re supposed to side with the Mexican? Even though the whole point of this movie is that he is wrong? Bill Pullman CAN just waltz in and make good wine! Like, actually the best wine in the whole world! THAT IS WHAT THIS MOVIE IS ABOUT.
Bill Pullman’s desperation and assholery have finally gotten through Bo’s thick fun skull, anyway, because Bo secretly drives (sigh) to the country club where his mom hangs out with her douchey new husband. Everyone there is deeply unlikeable, talking about Yale and charities, and farmboy Bo has a look on his face of wanting to go Manson on them all. It is the only interesting scene in the movie. Anyway, he asks his mom for cash to buy some crucial oak barrels. His dad will punch him for doing this! But needs the money.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Intern Girl Sam likes the Mexican’s secret wine so much, she has one sip and fucks him.
When Bo gets back from Snooty Club, he finds Sam in bed with the Mexican (his best friend), and he speeds off, mad. So Dad gets furious because Bo isn’t here to work. And, furious, he gives postcoital Sam a wine lesson that is just a passive-aggressive assault on his son.
So I guess dad thinks Bo has it easy, not getting punched ALL the time? But the main thing Bill Pullman does is tell everyone who will hold still that he’s not participating in Alan Rickman’s contest, because the whole thing is just a scam so that he can be laughed at. Between this, punching out his son for being too sexy, and a bit where he tricks the visiting Brit into paying for free tastings, there has never been a movie character with a chip this big on his shoulder. Good luck rooting for him and America, you assholes.
But Bo outwits the old man by sneaking off to the airport. There Alan Rickman is flying back to France. Bo gives him two bottles of Chateau Montelena for le contest.
Naturally, when dad finds out, he fires Bo and throws him out.
The very NEXT day, dad checks on his prize chardonnay and it has all turned brown. Brown! It tastes the same, but discolored = ruined. He calls a truck to haul the wine off to a dump…
…and he goes crawling back to the law office to get his old job back.
Bo and Sam however are ON IT. They race to UC Davis, where a professor tells them the brownness is something he’s read about as theoretically possible, but he’s never actually seen it before… it means your wine is “too perfect.” AND, bonus, the brownness is only temporary.
Bo and Sam race back across scenery to stop the hauler, but they run out of gas. Of course, Sam flashes her boobs to get them a ride — BUT the passing car turns out to be a cop… SO she shows her boobs AGAIN to get them arrested. So they can make a phone call. But the cop doesn’t arrest them, he just drives them to a phone? It is a short, meaningless scene; I mention it only to be vicious. The nice thing would be to pretend it didn’t happen.
But even boobs out, they’re too late. The wine was hauled off. They go to Eliza Dushku’s bar to drown their sorrows. But GET THIS it turns out the hauler also stopped at Eliza’s on the way to the dump, and Eliza bought the wine from him. And it’s no longer brown.
As a result, Bill Pullman has a second mental breakdown (a joyful one in which he waves a sword around his law office; ugh) and then all of Napa Valley takes up a collection to send him to France to represent them at the contest (any price to send him away is worth it, I guess is their thinking). But he says no, it was my son who saved my wine, send him. Everyone who has been calling Bo a loser all movie is suddenly all “Yes,” and they pass the hat to buy him a ticket. Sam seduces him on his last night in town. She’s over the Mexican? Let’s be honest, that dude never stood a chance.
Bo goes to France. Alan Rickman gives a long speech in the worst French, there’s a lot of tasting, the marking of score cards. The tasting is blind – but the French judges feel sure the awful wines are the American ones.
They’re wrong. We win. Cue upbeat ’70s music. Panning shot of California. The end.
While watching this, you will be bored, and you will only suspend your boredom in order to be demoralized. It’s a true story containing maybe five minutes that feel true. And I’m the last person to like the likeable, but it’s genuinely confusing how unlikeable Bill Pullman’s character is. “Let’s focus on how he’s an angry, defensive, violent Mexican-firer who hates hippies and is convinced the world is laughing at him” — the smartest filmmakers in the world. Maybe that’s who this guy was in real life? But then get with it, movie, and be a little more clever about that. At least try to have fun with the way he runs around his law office with that stupid sword. Which just between you and me, I think you made up.
Gavel bang! Rank it!
Easily one of the lamest movies I’ve ever seen, it takes spot #410, the lowest Unnecessary Movie so far, way down in the area where I’m just warning you: Stay the F away. Slightly better at #409 is the insight-free “important lessons” dramedy Family Man, in which Nicolas Cage plays a jerk who becomes nice, and #411 is David Lynch’s shockingly stupid Dune, in which Kyle MacLachlan becomes the messiah who kills people by shouting at them. I award Bottle Shock 10 shots of the worst flavor of Cuervo and one shove off the Eiffel Tower.
AND NOW, Assignment #7…
That’s two lousy movies in one week. And I’ve been very susceptible to damage from them because I keep forgetting to eat this week. I put lunch off too late and then the lunch truck is closed, or I get home and do a bunch of chores and suddenly it’s 11:00. You can’t eat at 11:00! It’s bad for you! So all I eat in that case is soup, on the premise that soup is a liquid and therefore not actually food.
I can’t go on like this.
So, help me remember to eat properly. Devise some kind of mnemonic device. A rhyme, lyrics about eating set to a familiar tune (EXAMPLE: “Camptown Races”), maybe an acronym. As if we are cramming for a test (we hope to cram a mouth). It can be anything. A mnemonic about eating. Reminding us ALL to do it. You guys like food, right? And pick a number 1-183. This is a weird game but I am delirious from hunger.