I’m not a movie guy. I can barely make it through a half-hour TV show. So, when I tell you a movie is great, please give me a chance to explain.
A lyric in Public Enemy’s song ‘Burn Hollywood Burn’ is ‘Yeah, I’ll check out a movie, but it takes a Black one to move me.’ When I finally come around to try a movie, I confess that I’m usually looking for one with a familiar Black actor. Last night was one of those nights I got in the bed and figured I’d tap ‘Uncorked’ on Netflix and let it put me to sleep. Needless to say, I didn’t sleep.
It’s a story about a young Black man who desires to become a sommelier against the wishes of his father who runs a family bar-b-que restaurant in Memphis. We rarely see movies focused on ordinary Black family dynamics, especially those running small family businesses. ‘Uncorked’ did a fabulous job giving us a peek at the modern middle class Black family that isn’t struggling, isn’t uber rich, isn’t involved in a bunch of nonsense drama, and isn’t in total agreement with the son pursuing his passion of becoming a certified wine connoisseur.
If someone had told me it was a Prentice Penny movie, I would have been waiting for this movie on the red carpet. Penny is a young Black guy who did work on the popular ‘Girlfriends’ show and more recently was the showrunner for the great HBO show ‘Insecure’ when it launched. He then did his own show on TruTV called ‘Upscale’ where he introduced small changes we can make to upscale our lifestyle with little money and a little exposure to the finer things. I loved that show. It only ran two seasons, but it was original, important, funny, and starred Prentice Penny.
‘Uncorked’ is the perfect blend of ‘Insecure’ and ‘Upscale’ in the form of a movie. It’s original; it presents the Black family in an almost original way we hardly ever see in the media; and the funny parts are really funny.
The casting was perfect, but the standout actor is not the star of the movie who is pursing his dream of being the sommelier, it’s his dad played by Courtney Vance. Vance gives a brilliant, incredible, award winning performance. His wife is played by Niecy Nash who is as you expect Niecy Nash to be which is always entertaining. The star, Mamoudou Athie, is someone I hadn’t seen before, but he held his own as a socially awkward young Black man trying to figure things out, and I thought his girlfriend, played by Sasha Compere, was excellent.
Everything I pay attention to about movie stuff was on point – the sets, color, sound, lighting, locations (including Memphis and Paris), wardrobe, writing, makeup & hair, and music, made for a wonderful time in front of the big TV with sound bar blasting. Don’t let me find the soundtrack is available.
It would probably be categorized as a Black movie only because it features mostly Black actors, but this movie is definitely color-blind. Anyone who enjoys family dynamics and challenges, young love, dream chasers, ambition, work ethic, perseverance, joy and sadness, will enjoy this movie.
If I may put on my critic hat for a moment, there are two things I wish had been done better without giving spoilers. There’s a sad event in the movie that just wasn’t sad enough. For all the love they had for this character, they didn’t suck us into the emotion and sped right past the event like we didn’t care. And, as much as I was ready for the movie to end, I wasn’t happy how it ended. I felt they plopped me somewhere I wasn’t quite prepared to go very suddenly. Neither of these things take away from what I otherwise consider a great movie.
Give it a go and tell me what you think.