The Parent Trap remake from 1998 is inarguably a masterpiece of the millennial canon. Besides introducing us to Lindsay Lohan, one of the most consequential stars of this generation, the film remains beloved (or at least memeable) in perpetuity. There is much to admire about this family film — like the quippy dialogue, gorgeous sets, and perfect casting. Yet, despite all the accolades, critics have still overlooked something important: The Parent Trap is also the best movie about wine.
After being separated at birth by their parents, twins Hallie and Annie Parker meet at sleepaway camp where they conspire to switch places and reunite their parents: Elizabeth James, a London-based wedding dress designer, and Nick Parker, a successful California winemaker. Although Nick’s abrupt engagement to Meredith Blake, the winery’s 26-year-old PR coordinator, poses a threat to the twins’ goal, the titular trapped parents ultimately see the love that was always there and get back together, just like the girls had hoped.
As with every Nancy Meyers joint, The Parent Trap oozes aspirational opulence in every scene. A master of show don’t tell — from the posh summer camp, to Elizabeth’s London townhouse and fashion studio — you know these people are wealthy, as she spins a tale of two creatives at the top of their field surrounded by everything they could want except for each other.
Is that the message you want to deliver to little kids? Yes, definitely. At least in the ’90s. And more than any of the aforementioned displays, wine is integral to that vision right from the moment when Halle explains to the other campers what a vineyard is, and her idyllic life with a winemaker dad. Certainly an unusual way to kick off a Disney movie, but I guess that’s what the PG rating is for.
As the movie goes on we see the vastness of the Parker estate and tastefully decorated mansion, filmed at Napa’s prestigious Staglin Family Vineyard. If you aren’t a kid caught up in the plot or Lindsay’s excellent acting (her best role IMO), you will certainly fall for the trappings of this handsome winemaker’s life, a depiction of rugged luxury that lacks any of the actual work of being a winemaker because that would be boring for children.
And that’s what The Parent Trap is, a fancy fairytale complete with an evil stepmother, star-crossed lovers, and valiant princesses. And what better backdrop for this fable than winemaking, which is both glamorous and down-to-earth? Wine is a fantasy, something to project your hopes and dreams on to as you await the maturity of a certain vintage, or sink $35 on another wax-capped oddity made from varieties of dry-farmed old-vines that aren’t listed on the label. Wine movies should be fun.
It must be said that most other wine movies are bad. The most famous one, Sideways, is a miserable story about a miserable man, which is probably why it won an Oscar in 2005. In it, the lead, a depressed, middle-aged oenophile, goes on a roadtrip through California wine country with his oversexed middle-aged friend. They drink and drive and nothing really happens unless you sympathize with Paul Giamatti’s character, which I don’t.
The other side of the wine movie coin are documentaries like Somm, about a group of men becoming Master Sommeliers, or Sour Grapes, which is about a group of men being swindled by another man and I would not recommend watching these unless you have to, and avoid Mondovino at all costs.
It’s best not to look at wine through the lens of competition or compensating for your flaws. For some, wine is a study that necessitates a certain amount of boredom, but for everyone else it should be something enjoyed with ease, just like how Nick and Elizabeth finally found love. Think about that the next time someone tells you not to drink Merlot.