MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
As the country deals with a period of quarantine due to the COVID-19 outbreak, I wonder how the Class of 2020 will deal with graduation and everything that follows. A senior year filled with celebrations, honors and sports has been replaced by online classes and distance learning from home. College may even have to wait another year for classrooms to open; parents may be unable to financially support higher education due to lost jobs and income. But one thing remains constant. Once high school has been completed it is time to consider what to do next. Uncorked is a lovely little film on Netflix that addresses this topic.
Elijah (Mamoudou Athie) is a young adult who has been helping out in his family’s Memphis barbeque joint for as long as he can remember, accompanying his dad to purchase the right kind of wood for the smokers and the large sides of pork and beef to grill. The restaurant has been handed down from generation to generation and Elijah has been chosen to carry on the business. But Elijah has been thinking about other career choices without any real clear vision. That is, until he discovers the study of wine and the varieties of grapes, colors, tastes and smells. This not only brings him joy, but a passion for life, and he sets out to educate himself to become a master sommelier. This is an expensive proposition and the competition is tough (as well as the acquired knowledge and skill). His father Louis (Vance) is less than thrilled about this development, but his mother Sylvia (Nash) wants her son to go after his dreams.
Uncorked is such a refreshing movie because it depicts a loving and supportive family system. Sure, Elijah’s choices are going to impact the future of the restaurant, but this decision eventually gives Louis pause to think about the dreams of his that may have been set aside in order to make his father happy. As the coursework becomes more grueling, Elijah is invited to be part of a study group. While there are some petty squabbles along the way and a touch of vanity in one of his classmates, they help each other out. When a family crisis develops during a study year abroad, Elijah dutifully returns home, even though this could derail his progress.
The dialogue is so well-written and the characters so fully-formed, I found myself genuinely caring about these people. When a romance evolves between Elijah and Tanya (Sasha Compere), most of the rom-com tropes are set aside for Tanya to be presented as an intelligent and caring soulmate.
This is a small gem and I hope that more people discover it. Its heart is in the right place and love is at work in just about every scene.
But be forewarned. There is quite a bit of casual friendly swearing in the film. Regrettably most of the profanity is reserved for the hip-hop songs on the soundtrack. I would still recommend this for family viewing, especially if you have graduating seniors.
Uncorked may get some viewers interested in becoming wine stewards; I am personally hoping that it will inspire more young adults into cooking barbeque. But most of all, I hope that the movie opens up honest family conversation about meaningful work and joyful vocation, whatever that might be.
Halo and Pitchfork Rating:
Four halos: A warm and thoughtful film about family and vocation.
Two pitchforks: Quite a bit of casual swearing, most prominent on the hip-hop soundtrack; mild sexual innuendo.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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