‘Uncorked’: For black folks who love wine and Netflix
Can we get another round of ‘Uncorked’ comedy + drama films?
If I was a character in “Cheers,” Sam Malone would always know my order. I don’t care what other kind of fancy drink you give me or what beer brand you try to talk me into. I’ll always circle back to a whiskey sour or a Merlot — sometimes both. White wine is all right, but I’ve always had a thing for red. I didn’t know that Chardonnay was the “Jay Z” of white wine or Pinot Gris (or Pinot Grigio) was the “Kanye West” of white wine. I Drake-and-Drive often. But somehow in all my wine-drinking days, I have skipped over the “Drake” of white wine: Riesling. And it was a pleasant surprise to learn all of this while watching Netflix’s 2020 film “Uncorked.”
At this point I have a running checklist of African-American films I don’t want to see (for now). Gangs? Nope. Drugs? Nope. Murder? Eh, depends on why the person got killed. (I liked “Queen & Slim.”) Robbery or burglary? Nope. Parodies of other films? Possibly, but I don’t want to see another grown man for the rest of my life hump a plastic doll. I’m not so much opposed to single mom movies or the black teen that gets pregnant, but are we acting like all those real-life black couples at the back of JET magazine were figments of our imagination?
So when I saw the trailer for a film in which a young, black man had hopes of being a Sommelier, my first thought was, “Have I ever even seen a Sommelier?” And then I tried to fight back the laughter from his brother and father who asked him, “You trying to be an African? Is that like a pirate?” No, sir, that Somali you were “looking at” was Barkhad Abdi. Still though, I can imagine a couple of my own relatives asking those same questions.
“Uncorked” is a perfect blend of comedy, romance and drama. Although this film has a couple of pacing issues (similar to “The Photograph”) toward the very end, that didn’t stop me from cheering on an aspiring Sommelier. Quite frankly, I wanted to know what in the world a Sommelier does to earn his stripes. Plus, I was just as entertained watching Courtney B. Vance and Niecy Nash.
Louis (played by Vance, the handsome husband of Angela Bassett) has a rib restaurant that has been in the family for years, courtesy of his own father. Sylvia (played by Nash), his spicy and hilarious wife who fought her way through breast cancer, is his right-hand woman in the restaurant. And if Elijah (played by Mamoudou Athie) would just act right, he can take over the family business and the second location. The problem is that Elijah would much rather sell, talk and drink wine. And he doesn’t want to just be around the bottles. When a trip to Paris comes up, he’s trying to take over where Jay Z and Kanye West left off and be the next brotha in Paris — but a wine connoisseur.
You don’t have to like wine to enjoy this flick because his father cannot stand it. He barks on him constantly and is quite snippy about his lucrative business with “black folks eating pork.” Thank you and good day! Or, maybe you’ll want to watch the rich and hilarious back-and-forth between a very married couple who can start a debate with their eyes from across the room. They are serious about their date nights — from the Blue Man Group in Las Vegas to C.C’s all-you-can-eat crab night — and watching these two “get all funky” with each other is pure comedy.
If you’re into films about overcoming the odds, then there’s a good chance you’ll like “Uncorked.” (Contrary to Hollywood’s beliefs, black folks can become successful at something other than sports.) Elijah doesn’t come from old money or even new money, but he still gives off Theo Huxtable vibes— if Theo was into grape vineyards. And even while he’s in Paris, his eyes are still set on his hometown girlfriend — a sista named Tanya (played by Sasha Compère) who gave him a chance in spite of how absolutely awful he is at talking to women. (Spoiler alert: He did not trade her in for a European model when he got to Paris. Hollywood films certainly would’ve made sure that happened.)
What makes this film so dope is not only is it something different, and potentially inspirational for younger viewers who wonder what else they can be when they grow up. It’s that it can pull off this theme without seeming too desperate or too unrealistic — and no, there is no savior who comes along to save his day. (Spoiler alert: The savior who could’ve done so turns out to be quite a flake.)
This is a feel-good film about an African-American middle-class family that showcases a satisfying blend of jokes, trauma, love and education. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars and plan to watch it again — and add Riesling to my next “social isolation grocery store checklist” too.
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