Northern California wine country proves disappointingly infertile ground for sharp satire in “Corked,” a mockumentary that could have benefited from a longer period of creative fermentation. Neither merciless enough to skewer its alternately clueless and pretentious characters nor impassioned enough about wine to become a funny valentine to its subject, this low-budget laffer from writer-directors Ross Clenenden and Paul Hawley (scion of Sonoma County’s Hawley Winery) may attract a few connoisseurs but looks unlikely to break out. Pic opens June 5 for a limited run at Los Angeles’ Downtown Independent Theater.
Pic tracks a group of rival wineries and the assorted fools and eccentrics who run them, including smarmy, image-conscious Donald Smythe (Clenenden, very good), tireless multitasker Gerry Hannon (Jeffrey Weissman) and two bumbling marketing entrepreneurs (Rob Reinis, Ben Tolpin) whose patter wears thin quickly. A haughty wine critic (Marte Mejstrik), weirdly bearing the name of former Time Warner chairman-CEO Richard Parsons, materializes late in the game; one expects he might describe “Corked” as mildly quaffable at best. Lensing by Miguel Medina (who also edited) shows off sun-drenched vineyards to nice, scenic effect; other tech contributions are well done.