Alan Rickman tribute: Bottle Shock (2008)

Within a few days of David Bowie’s death, the world lost another great artist Alan Rickman.  Rickman was a truly incredible actor and always brought his A game regardless if the movie was amazing (Think Die HardHarry Potter) or a piece of utter crap (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Dogma).  Today, I decided to review a Rickman film I had not seen and is often overlooked in his filmography, the movie Bottle Shock

Detailing with the famous competition known as “The Judgement of Paris”, Bottle Shock is a true story about how California winemakers beat French winemakers in a 1976 contest, sending shock waves throughout the wine world.  Rickman portrays Steven Spurrier, a British ex-pat living in Paris who decides to organize a wine competition so that the wine academy he has founded will be taken more seriously.  Spurred on by his only customer Maurice (played by the one and only Dennis Farina), Spurrier goes to Napa Valley and gets in contact with several Winemakers including one portrayed by Bill Pullman, to lend him bottles of wine for the competition.

One of the main problems with Bottle Shock is it does not know what it wants to be.  The movie should actually focus on the scrappy underdog, but instead they get bogged down in too many divergent plot points, including an unnecessary love triangle, racial issues within California, class, and even hippies.  These plot points really add nothing to the film.  If the film had focused on the dealings with the competition and the scrappy underdog, I would have liked it a lot better than adding stupid plot points.  However, that is not to distract the really good performance from Rickman.

Rickman shines in this movie.  He portrays Spurrier with the perfect sense of British-snobbery but also nuance.  Ultimately this is a man who wants to be respected by his French peers and wants to feel loved.  In fact, in going to America to scope out the competition, he does feel loved by the American establishment with all the winemakers wanting him to try their wine.  You can also tell Rickman and Dennis Farina had great chemistry.  In fact, I would have liked the movie to focus more on Rickman and Farina and their attempts at wine competitions, but sadly that will never happen.

Overall, this is probably a movie you can miss unless you are super into wine.  But if you are interested in Rickman’s acting, I saw go for it and check it out.

Final rating: 2 ½ out of 4 stars.


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