BROTHERHOOD OF THE GRAPE
by Chad Menville
published August 15, 2008
now playing in select theaters
“It’s 1976. Woodstock was 7 years ago” says Jim Barrett, as he’s kicking his son Bo’s arse in their boxing ring. Do they duke it
out because Bo has the silliest synthetic hairpiece since Joe Dirt? No, it is rather to illustrate the differences in father-son values.
Then there’s the story of the British sommelier living in France and his struggling business. There are at least 5 subplots all jockeying
for equal screen time, but in 110 minutes, some are insufficiently explored, resulting in characters that are charming yet, in moments,
less than credible. For this reason it is difficult to locate the heart of this film. It tries to be everything to everyone.
Here are the players: Bo Barrett (Chris Pine), the knucklehead son;
Jim Barrett (Bill Pullman), the Napa winery owner and hard to please father; Steven Spurrier (Alan Rickman), the wine snob; Sam (Rachael
Taylor), the attractive Galileo-quoting wine intern; Gustavo Brambilia (Freddy Rodriguez), the man with a dream; and Maurice (Dennis Farina),
the ugly American.
The cast plods along with Rickman and Rodriguez beginning to
transcend, soaring beyond their cookie cutter roles that have been laid out for them. Loosely based on historical facts, the plot’s buildup is
the famous blind French wine tasting of 1976. When they take on the French, it is hard not to feel the tiniest twinge of
During the Q&A that followed the screening I attended, Bottle Shock writer/director Randall Miller and co-writer wife Jody Savin confessed that they “outline the
outline,” then go over their work in a coffee shop “so that the volume is contained.” This is their process, and I find it refreshing they can
joke about it. That the final edit was completed a mere three days before the Sundance festival opened, however, is telling in that it reveals
as much ambition as it does abandon. This summer, if you go and see Bottle Shock, their labor of
love, you will surely enjoy it, yet realize it was corked a little too soon.
chadmenville @ stageandcinema.com