“Uncorked,” a film written, produced and directed by Prentice Penny — whose writing and producing background includes iconic series like “Insecure” and “Girlfriends” — is something familiar yet fresh, which is just what the world of entertainment needs during a pandemic. The movie, which was released on Netflix March 27, exceeds expectations with its willingness to turn something recognizable into something never before seen. The transition and acknowledgement of what is old and what is new is a recurring theme throughout the film. Even the casting follows this trend as it mixes veteran actors, like Courtney Vance and Niecy Nash, with some newer faces. “Uncorked” is the boozy story of perseverance you need to get through the quarantine.
The film follows main character Elijah, played by relative newcomer Mamoudou Athie, a typical millennial who wants to be a good son and follow his dreams at the same time. He dreams of going to school to become a master sommelier — a wine expert — instead of carrying on the tradition of owning and managing the family rib restaurant. Along his journey he meets a bunch of people who support him, like his classmates and girlfriend, but there is one person who initially rejects his dreams — his father, played by Vance. Despite this fact, he manages to gain the support of his mother, Sylvia, who is portrayed by Nash, and finds a way to travel to Paris with his school’s exchange program. Elijah never gives up on his dream even in the face of adversity.
Penny also creates a commentary on the current generational thought gap in the black family. The older generation focuses on keeping tradition as a means of survival while the younger generation looks for new ways to live. The comparison he sets up between the family restaurant and sommelier school is representative of the difference between newer generations and their older parents. The willingness to abandon tradition in favor of new endeavors is a source of division, and through the film Penny shows the audience resolution is possible despite what it may seem like.
The film sets itself apart from similar storylines by showing a father and son coming to an understanding and acceptance before the end of the movie, diverging from the trope of disappointed fathers who do not support their child’s dreams. Until the film’s turning point, there is much animosity between Elijah and his father, but very quickly that shifts in the face of sudden trauma. In the aftermath of this trauma their bond is strengthened. It might be a reach, but this example of resolution and reconciliation is refreshing when most of us are all cooped up in our homes.
Rap music and culture is also prevalent throughout the film, whether it is Elijah comparing wines to rappers or the song “Juice” by Yo Gotti playing to the visuals of barbeque sauce being poured into a vat. By incorporating music and references to mainstream artists like Drake, Jay-Z and Kanye, the film seeks to connect with the younger audience to push the idea that the older folks just don’t get it. Also by doing this, the audience has something familiar to grasp onto when entering the unfamiliar territory that is the world of sommeliers. In this moment of uncertainty and distress, something familiar is always appreciated.
“Uncorked” will leave you feeling fulfilled in every way possible.This is the perfect movie to sit down with on a weekday night with a glass of wine to get the full effect. Watch with parents or grandparents for a feel-good moment of connection in this hour of panic.