Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
June 13, 2013
*1/2 (out of four)
We’re all so busy, says master sommelier candidate Ian Cauble, “How often do you [stop] and smell something?”
Um, there’s a reason Ferris Bueller emphasized looking around, not smelling. Who wants more free time so they can appreciate the aroma of the bus?
In “Somm,” Cauble--who later claims a wine “had tannins that ripped my face off”--and other wine aficionados study feverishly for a three-part exam that fewer than 200 people in the world have passed in the past 40-some years. Perhaps writer-director Jason Wise could have given us an indication of why these guys—and it’s all guys, with no one acknowledging why women don’t appear to participate—claim the test is the hardest thing they’ve ever had to do. There’s a lot of information to absorb, and blind tastings must be difficult, but nowhere in “Somm” is there an indication of how these bros hone their senses or how the test wines are selected.
How can you tell the year based on the flavor/scent/appearance? Does anyone ever need a designated driver to take them home from practice? Do you ever drink wine for fun anymore? Wise asks none of these questions, merely observing as candidate DLynn Proctor notes hints of “wet forest floor” and “decaying animal skin,” something I’m sure was the winemaker’s intent.
The film presents sommeliers as experts of pairing wine with food, yet the film omits that aspect of the training, during which everyone puts their lives and wives aside. Watching people memorize and drink wine just ain’t that interesting, and “Somm” ignores that, in general, most people don’t really care about the world of sommeliers and probably think they’re pretentious. The public wants to drink wine, not hear a lecture about it.
“Jiro Dreams of Sushi” did a much better job of highlighting an unusual obsession. “Somm” has more in common with “Scatter my Ashes at Bergdorf’s,” a doc that believed high-end fashion was of supreme importance in 2013.
Kudos to those who become masters, and for a little while the personalities are enough to help “Somm” amuse. Still, it’s more of a niche amuse bouche than a full-bodied doc.
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