Ed Burley’s Escaping Robert Parker, premiered at the Bryant Park Hotel on Monday night, which began with a social hour and four of Jules wines. The film is described as “A love story about a winemaker, his wine, and the man trying to come between them…” which seems partially right. The protagonist, Jules, certainly appears to be on a love quest. There are many references made to his single status, and indications that girlfriends come and go. As he travels around the world lugging cases, we see that his heart is in the bottle. However, for a film about a burgeoning winemaker swimming upstream against the current of Robert Parker, there is very little of Robert Parker in the film. Is Parker named in the title to draw an audience? Or is he–or at least what he could buy the winemaker in terms of success– the girl for whom our protagonist pines?
For me, the film is not about Parker, it is about Jules as an artist. Writers, photographers, painters, musicians–many of us are caught up in the hustle, doing what it takes to be recognized or heard. Jules makes wines that he loves and he wants others to appreciate his labor. Who wouldn’t? But is it Parker who’s in his way? When R.P. tells Charlie Rose, in an excerpted clip, that he can make or break a wine, it’s clearly a point of pride. “…People would realize that I was right and that writers with more experience and knowledge were making fools of themselves…” Hmmm… Is it the playground bully that we need to escape, or the world of winemakers who cater to his brass-knuckled palate?
At some point, Jules submits his wines to Parker for review, and his request is ignored. He then attends Parker’s $750 Bordeaux blind tasting, hoping to “confront” the enemy. He asks R.P. if he ever reviews rosé wines (which Jules tries hardest to promote), and the reply is no, because they lack longevity. Fair enough. But is this “escaping” or longing for a refrigerator repair man to review’s one book? We all know kids who spent years on the playground trying to befriend the “popular” crowd who offered nothing but cruelty and taunts. As an artist, Jules shows courage, discipline, and a true love for his art. But he also joins a long line. We all battle gatekeepers, and Parker is only one.
POSTSCRIPT: This review is based on a preview screening of the film, and not the final product.