In “Uncorked”, now broadcast on Netflix, the father-son drama benefits from a refreshing update. Elijah (Mamoudou Athie), a dispersed but well-intentioned young adult, has finally realized his dream: to become a master sommelier, a title reserved for the best sommeliers in the world. The only problem is that his father, Louis (Courtney B. Vance), wants him to focus on learning how their family’s barbecue works in Memphis.
At first, Elijah tries to do both. He prepares for the master’s exam, which is administered once a year, by enrolling in the sommelier’s school while taking care of his shifts on the barbecue. But it becomes more and more difficult because its course – on which it spent all its savings – requires more time and money. Eljah’s efforts are supported and encouraged by everyone except his father, who finds it difficult to accept that his son can and wants to do his own thing. “I just hope … you will follow,” said Louis at dinner when Elijah announced his intentions. “You have an idea of something but when the time comes to do it …” The implications of the unfinished feeling float in the air and haunt Elijah for the rest of the film.
“Uncorked”, which is the first feature by director “Insecure” Prentice Penny, succeeds when he focuses on Elijah’s relationship with his family. In the moments when they come together, the writing and the distribution shine in equal measure. “I went to a blender to try to become a sommelier,” says Elijah during a scene at the dinner table. “Are you trying to become an African?” his cousin, JT (Bernard David Jones) responds, confused. The characters tenderly fly a little before Elijah’s mother Sylvia (Niecy Nash) asks for the order. Far from the family unit, the film struggles a little more. Elijah’s girlfriend Tanya (Sasha Compere) remains so two-dimensional that her existence is more of a distraction; and Elijah’s trip to Paris halfway through the film looks almost like an obvious plot.
Nonetheless, “Uncorked” joins a growing body of work – cinematographic and otherwise – that overturns stereotypes of black people around the world. Elijah and his father’s life are not plagued by dramatic circumstances. Their problems with each other have to do with their opposing dreams, different styles of communication and the projection that can occur between parent and child. And while the characters interact against the background of varying degrees of racism and socio-economic stressors, they are not defined by them. In other words, they are ordinary but no less remarkable.
Unclassified. Duration: 1 hour 44 minutes.