How Prentice Penny Uses Loss to Foster Growth in Uncorked

Maxwell Jones
Writing 150 Fall 2020
5 min readOct 31, 2020


In Prentice Penny’s feature, Uncorked, we focus on the complicated relationship of an aspiring sommelier, Elijah, and his father, Louis. As soon as the opening credits roll, Penny shows the conflict of this story through a montage depicting the preparation of Louis’ barbecue restaurant versus the production of wine. Immediately after, we are taken into the kitchen of Louis’ restaurant, where he asks “Where’s Elijah?” We cut to Elijah organizing wine bottles at a liquor store, and immediately, the audience knows what this film is going to be about. This story is not just about a kid working at a wine shop and a family restaurant, but rather, a battle between father and son for the future of their family. Louis wants to prepare Elijah to take over the family restaurant, but Elijah has other plans for his future. The conflict between these two drives the story forward, as their battle for the future of Elijah’s career creates a tense, awkward, and relatable father-son dynamic throughout the entire story and pushes the characters outside their comfort zones, allowing them to form grander, more whole, perspectives on life and each other.

Penny cleverly makes Elijah and Louis appear as opposites because of their opposing goals; both of them are fighting for Elijah’s future, Elijah wanting to be a sommelier and his father wanting him to take over the barbecue business. Their opposition is clear in their actions; both of them act extreme in their reluctance to give in to the goals of the other. Every time Louis tries teaching Elijah about running the business, he makes an excuse not to go, completely avoiding any chance of him coming closer to running the restaurant. Similarly, whenever Elijah’s goals of becoming a sommelier get brought up, Louis desperately steers the conversation in any other direction, whether he’s complaining about not getting the cookies he asked for in the hospital or asking someone to pass the green beans at dinner. Like his son, Louis avoids even the acknowledgement of anything besides his plan for Elijah.

This lack of acknowledgement from both parties slowly builds a rising conflict between them, driving them further and further apart until Elijah’s last day at home before heading on a wine study trip in Paris. On this day, he giveshis father a gift, a Barolo wine from Italy that a father and son created together. Consistent with his attitude towards his son’s passion up until this point, Louis ignores the sentiment of the gift and tells his son he doesn’t drink wine, passive aggressively assuring him that “your mom’ll drink it.” The two part ways on bad terms, only to meet again when Elijah receives word from Paris that his mother, Sylvia, has died of cancer.

Now, what does this death do to Penny’s characters, and what does it have to do with their relationship? Well, making these characters come together despite their opposing views on life forces them to, for the first time in the film, acknowledge each other’s perspectives. As Elijah sees his father struggle to run the restaurant without his mother, he feels empathy for him. Elijah talks to his father about his decision to take over the restaurant that Pop, Elijah’s grandfather and Louis’ father, left to Louis before he died. When Louis tells Elijah that, “Sometimes [he] wonders what it would’ve been like to be a teacher” but he knows that “Helping Pop was just more important than what [he] wanted”, Elijah finally understands his father; he needed to take over the restaurant because he felt it was his duty. For the first time, Elijah sees the future in a different light. Perhaps pursuing his goals and his goals only isn’t as important as it once appeared. Maybe his father and his idea of the future matters too.

From here, Elijah begins helping his father out at the restaurant and decides to put his sommelier aspirations on hold. As Elijah begins taking interest in the business, the two start to coexist peacefully for the first time in the story. One day, the two are getting drinks at a bar when Elijah orders wine and Louis hears his son and the bartender have a substantive, thorough discussion about which wine Elijah should order. Suddenly, he notices his son’s passion; once they leave the bar, he asks Elijah what’s happening with his sommelier exam, and Elijah tells him he has put it on hold, presumably indefinitely. Louis calls back to their earlier conversation and tells Elijah “I didn’t know what I wanted to do when Pop asked me to take over the restaurant… but I knew I had to go all in to find out.” For the first time in the film, Louis listens to Elijah. He realizes that wine is more than just fermented grapes and alcohol to his son, and in effect, becomes aware of the sacrifice Elijah is making in helping him with the restaurant.

A montage of Louis and Elijah working together on the restaurant and on his studying follows this scene, all the way until the day of Elijah’s exam. Elijah takes the exam and as he anxiously waits in his hotel room for the results to come in the next morning, Louis knocks on the door and lets himself in. He jokingly tells Elijah “The last thing [he needs] is her ass hanting [him] from the grave.” These characters have finally accepted each other’s perspectives. Penny visualizes this through the pair sharing the Barolo that Elijah bought him earlier over a game of dominoes, blending the European culture of Elijah’s passion with the Southern game of dominoes representing Louis’ love for barbecue.

When Louis tells Elijah that he came because his deceased mother might haunt him if he didn’t, it provides some comic relief, but has such a deeper meaning. Because of the death of Elijah’s mother, these two were forced to do the only thing necessary to repair their fragmented relationship: listen to each other. Though Louis jokes about Sylvia being the reason for his appearance, she quite literally brought them together, in spirit, and physically at this moment. At this point, the audience doesn’t know if Elijah passed his test, but it does not matter. The story here is about the relationship of father and son, and coming to terms with each other’s perspectives and goals despite their oppositions. Through the loss of Sylvia, these two characters are forced to confront the realities they previously were too scared to face, and come out closer because of it.