While this film is not one that you’ll probably be seeing in the Criterion Collection any time soon, it’s still a very enjoyable little picture that I found very entertaining at the end of a long day. Despite my penchants for intellectual superiority, wine and associated wine-related topics is something that I know little to nothing about (though Papa Female Lady Friend* is a big wine guy, so I’m hoping to learn), but this film never made me feel stupid. So it’s got that going for it. Which, as they say in the motion picture “Caddyshack,” is nice.
The director of this film, which stars Alan Rickman, Bill Pullman, future Captain Kirk Chris Pine, and Freddy “Tolo” Rodriguez, with supporting roles from Eliza Dushku and Dennis Farina, directed “Houseguest.” I only bring this up, because the younger brother and I used to watch that film a lot as children. We’re both big movie guys, and for years — years — the only two movies we could reliably agree on were “Houseguest” and “Matinee.” And while “Bottle Shock” lacks the cinematic talents of such master thespians as Sinbad, it does feature a scene where Alan Rickman chows down on some Kentucky Fried Chicken. A colleague of mine once said that there are two things which are always funny in movies: 1) Tom Hanks yelling and 2) monkeys in human clothing. I would add to that 3) British people eating American fast food.
Enough about what people I know mentioned. “Bottle Shock” was a movie I went into with pretty low expectations — in a lot of ways, it is the very definition of a studio independent picture — but I found myself really enjoying it. The film is framed and the story is told in such a way that you don’t need to be a wine expert (see above) to understand the conflict. The film is as much about the relationship between Bill Pullman and Chris Pine, as father and son, as it is about the relationship between America and Europe. You could even say that the Pullman-Pine relationship, which moves from disdain to gradual acceptance and celebration, is reflected in Alan Rickman’s wine expert and his relationship to the Napa Valley wine which form the crux of the piece. Rickman’s character, a Brit living in Paris, could very much be a stand in for Britain as a whole, coming to respect America as a peer rather than a child.
On top of all that really interesting thematic stuff, the movie looks gorgeous. More than a couple of times, Ruby and I talked about how pretty Napa looked, and how we might want to live there some day. I’m a New Yorker, hardcore, but this movie definitely did a good job at making the Napa Valley look like paradise.
One final thought: I have to give a shout-out to Chris Pine, who, though I have not seen “The Train That Couldn’t Slow Down” (aka UNSTOPPABLE), is fast becoming one of my…well, not favorite, but definitely an actor who I will give more a chance to than most. I’ve been watching and reading a lot about Jeff Bridges lately (because Jeff Bridges is awesome), and Pine has the same sort of easy-going nature that Bridges did early in his career, while still exuding depth and manliness.
Good job, dude who directed “Houseguest.” Go get some Micky D’s…for Kevin Franklin.
*Who will henceforth be referred to as Ruby Doomsday, as that’s a name she and I use elsewhere in our travels through the internet. Ev’rybody sing: “Goodbye, Ruby Doomsday, who could hang a name on you…”