If you are willing to paddle through all the overdone cliches and father/son relationship career angles that you’ve seen a dozen times before in other movies, UNCORKED is a delightful find on Netflix. I was willing to forgive all that because I was entertained, the performances were pretty great, the ending threw me for a loop, and the fact that it was a unique career that the main protagonist was going after that I hadn’t seen done before in another movie. The film is about a twenty something African American named Elijah who doesn’t want to inherit the family owned Memphis barbeque business from his father, but instead wants to become a sommelier. If you don’t know what a sommelier is, it is a wine steward, you know, you seen them if you’ve ever seen the movie Sideways or taken a wine tour, someone that can be given a taste of a wine blindly, and know everything about it. Year, where it came from, other origins, etc., etc. You see them in very fancy restaurants. The film takes a unique tour of how to become one, all wrapped around a family drama of what ones parents expect out of their child. Everything that is supposed to happen in one of these films is like poetry to me when I’m watching it. I was pointing at the screen with my wife and like, “this is the big fight between father and son,” or “this is where the mom wants to support her son and defies the husband,” and the enivitable “this is where the father sees the light.” But thankfully I was able to look past all that, and enjoy the best wine film since Sideways itself.
The writer and director of this film, Prentice Penny, when looking up his career, mostly in television, has written some fantastic episodes of stuff that I’ve actually watched such as: Scrubs, Happy Endings, Insecure, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. This is his first feature. And he did a pretty excellent job, definitely knows his way behind the camera, and is definitely an actor’s director because of the performances. The film mainly stars Mamoudou Athie as Elijah, Courtney B. Vance as his father, and Niecy Nash as his mother. I love love love love love love LOVE Mamaoudou Athie, I’ve been following his career closely ever since his excellent turn in his supporting role in Patti Cakes. This is his first headlining feature, and once again, he knocks it out of the part. Producers and casting directors need to start letting this guy be a leading man. He has that spotlight and presence. I heard he has been cast in the third and last Jurassic World movie and so far that casting decision is the only reason why I still have any interest in the series after the disasterous Fallen Kingdom. Courtney B. Vance is great in this as well, the man can act, just watch him play Johnny Cochran in American Crime Story, the OJ Simpson Season. Niecy Nash, who I’ve only really known for her character in Reno 911! is excellent here. She probably has the most dramatic role with just that little comedic relief to show how great of an actress she is when given the right material. Everybody in great in this, parts big and small.
The best parts of the movie are easily Elijah’s studies to become a sommelier. Yes, the cliched father’s animosity toward his son for not wanting to inherit the family business is still watchable and interesting here, but since you know where that is going to end up going, the movie needs another clutch to make the movie kick into high gear. All the wine tasting, studying, and guessing stuff was a lot of fun to watch. And Niecy Nash’s arc. This movie probably was bought by Netflix, because there is no way a theater would take a movie like this nowadays, especially since the story lines have been done to death. And while Netflix gives us mediocre crap like Love Wedding Repeat and really bad pieces of shit like Wine Country, eventually they will have to give us something pretty good like Uncorked to balance everything out. So basically, if you liked the movie Sideways, if you like wine, or barbeque, or can’t get enough of that family career dynamic that has been done to death, I definitely recommend checking this out if you are bored and have nothing to watch. It’s definitely a nice little find on this streaming platform that is used to uncorking a bunch of stinkers before you get that perfect chardonnay that you drink up in less than a couple of hours. An hour and forty four minutes to be precise.