- Katie Bell
Uncorked and I got off to a shaky start. I'm not going to lie. And maybe it was petty? I'll let you be the judge...
Did you see it? I had to rewind the film to double check that there is indeed a typo. In fact, not only is there a typo, I believe the production company that has been misspelled is the production company headed by the writer/director of this film: Prentice Penny...Awkward...
At any rate, when I saw the typo, I judged this film. I'll admit it. I'm not perfect. I'm a spelling error snob and when I saw this spelling error, I rolled my eyes and thought, "Oh, here we go".
I shouldn't have been so quick to judge though, because this is perhaps one of the only errors that this film actually makes and in the grand scheme of things, it's a fairly minor error.
Uncorked follows Elijah (Mamoudou Athie) on his pursuit to become a Master Sommelier. However, Elijah's dream exists in conflict with his father, Louis' (Courtney B. Vance) dreams for him to take over the family business: a barbecue joint. (Alas, ribs and wine don't always pair well). Ultimately, this film is about following your dreams, family relationships and wine. Lots of wine.
The film sets up the conflict very well in the opening moments. We have a series of shots of wine (and grapes) that are shown in juxtaposition with a series of shots of ribs, and more broadly, people working at Louis' barbecue restaurant in Memphis. The way in which this movie is filmed is important, as neither the ribs, nor the wine come out looking "more appealing". Both look appealing in their own way. These shots focusing on food and drinks continue throughout the film and are often used as linking devices to tie scenes together or to commence a new chapter of the story, or most importantly, in moments where Elijah's family are brought together (like so many other families who bond over a shared meal). One thing is for sure though, both Elijah and Louis' passions are made evident through the beautiful way their respective passions are shot.
Much of this film is almost a character study. We see the world from Elijah's perspective. This is really critical, as it heightens the stakes for viewers. We want him to become a master sommelier and most importantly we understand how much HE wants to become one. Elijah is not only knowledgeable and passionate about wine, but he sees it in a unique way. Hip hop music is used frequently throughout Uncorked, whilst Elijah attends wine tastings and furthers his knowledge. This use of hip hop breaks the stereotype that wine is a stuffy beverage reserved for those in the world who listen to Mozart whilst stroking their cat. The movie makes wine relevant and relatable for everyone. In addition, Elijah doesn't just drink and research wine because he finds it interesting, at one point he says, "When I get a wine from some place like France...some place like Spain, I just feel like I'm kind of there". It's an escape or at the very least, a way to experience places outside of Memphis for him.
Although Uncorked is mostly serious, being a drama, it also has some beautiful moments of comedy. Largely it's the best kind: the warm and natural jokes that come from a "real" family. Some of my favourite moments in the film are when Niecy Nash and Courtney B. Vance are on the screen at the same time. They share great chemistry, and create some beautiful moments of natural comedy, but also some really meaningful moments of drama.
Hip hop music, wine close-ups and naturally comedic moments aside, perhaps the most enjoyable parts of this film to watch, are those that involve Elijah and Louis. The barbecue business was initially started by Louis' father. When Louis came of age, it became his business and obviously his intention was always to pass it down to Elijah when the time was right. It's hard for Louis to accept that barbecue just doesn't make Elijah entirely happy. Watching this relationship grow and shift and change throughout the movie is really engaging and at times can only be described as heartwarming.
This one's worth a watch. It's shot beautifully, performed well and to be honest, it made me genuinely want to explore the world of wine. I'm not joking. Next time I head to the bottle-o, I'll bypass my usual habit of picking up my good old reliable friend Cat Amongst the Pigeons: Shiraz Cabernet, and I'm going to try something new! I'm not sure if that's really why this film was made. In fact, I'm almost certain it was made to communicate a realistic story about an African-American family living in Memphis. And it did do that...but Elijah's passion, has made me want to be passionate, which is kind of powerful. Watch this film.
P.S. If you are already a wine aficionado, apparently the below link contains a list of all of the wines included in the film (in chronological order). So if you're rich, and so inclined, you can see, swirl, sniff, sip and savour each wine flavour in solidarity with Elijah...don't forget to spit, or you'll be in trouble. https://www.winemag.com/2020/04/10/netflix-uncorked-wine-list/