Uncorked, a film from Netflix, breaks new ground in the sommelier-film genre by telling the story from the eyes of a black protagonist, and with a hip-hop soundtrack. Elijah Bruener (played by Mamoudou Athie), who works at a wine shop in Memphis, Tennessee, wants to go to school to become a Master Sommelier; his father (played by Courtney B. Vance) would rather his son take over the family’s BBQ joint. The quiet victories of the film are in moments like a classroom scene where Elijah stands, like David to Goliath, to compete in a blind tasting against a classmate who boasts he’s from Harvard and has correctly identified the last five wines. The film pokes fun at wine novices and sommeliers alike, and offers some comic relief as Elijah struggles to balance work and school, finance his study abroad in Paris and deal with his mother’s illness. Just when he’s about to put the exam on hold, Elijah’s community helps prepare him to meet the task he’s worked so hard to achieve. This is the debut film for director Prentice Penny, a coproducer of the TV series Insecure.
This story appears in the print issue of June 2020.
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