With so much great viewing available these days, and so little time. I’ve created some rules for getting into a movie or TV show. No. 1: If I don’t care for any of the characters, I’m out.
That provided a challenge with “Somm,” because 15 minutes in I was hard-pressed to press on, with little to glom onto in terms of caring what happened to any of these annoying people. But I soldiered on and was rewarded.
This documentary is a true Sausage Fest, and probably holds little interest for anyone who doesn’t care about wine, but for us cork dorks it’s a rewarding look at the trials and travails of the somm-wannabe world. Once I warmed — well, “lukewarmed” — to the characters, it was fascinating to learn the depth with which they would strive for certification.
Poring through their beloved index cards while on a treadmill prepping for the prestigious Master Sommelier exam. Comparing riesling to a just-opened can of tennis balls (got that) and a new rubber hose (uh …), and a red wine to “lathered ponies.” And showing some self-awareness, especially when one of them characterizes the whole lot as “in some ways like guys in a locker room, with wine bottles.”
It’s particularly interesting that for all their studying and tasting, these guys often miss badly on what varietal they’re sampling blind. This humanizes them a bit, as do scenes with lady friends they have managed to garner.
Amidst the cramming, there are beautiful vineyard shots and some semi-cheesy light-jazz music, but this movie is all about the boys and their bottles. For better and worse.
A sequel from the same director (Jason Wise), “Somm: Inside the Bottle,” has just opened in limited release. I look forward to seeing it, but more because of my interest in the topic than the quality of its predecessor.