It’s likable and full of talent both in front of and behind the camera, but Uncorked still amounts to little more than another unchallenging Netflix drama.
Uncorked is the very definition of a middle-of-the-road Netflix drama; unchallenging but charming, well-acted but to unambitious ends, and as easy to like as it is to forget about entirely. Written and directed by Prentice Penny, it at least promotes Mamoudou Athie (The Front Runner) to a deserving lead role as Elijah, a young man who would rather become a sommelier than take over the family barbecue business.
This is a familiar father-son story that embraces formula while also trying to freshen up the expected beats to mixed effect. The cast is consistently pleasurable, though; alongside Athie, Courtney B. Vance and Niecy Nash are both dependable as Elijah’s father and sneakily supportive mother, doing a lot with a little and providing most of the reasons to watch.
Uncorked wants us to buy into Elijah’s disillusionment with BBQ and his growing fascination with the wine business, but the allure of the industry is never really felt, and thus Elijah’s choices remain for the most part uninteresting. While the talent on display both in front of and behind the camera is felt, it also feels wasted on an unchallenging screenplay that can recite the intricacies of food and drink but evoke none of the sensory appeals. The film’s flat aesthetic and thin narrative, advanced mostly by obvious audience-surrogate questions, do very little to lure an audience to the table.
And yet, Uncorked is perfectly likable; its effortless surmounting of various minor obstacles has the laidback appeal of shooting lined-up fairground targets, which makes it perfect lazy weekend entertainment of a kind that is going to be more popular than ever with half the world in quarantine. While the film is unimpressive and unmemorable, it’s a respectable effort at re-doing a done-to-death drama template – it might not be a particularly distinguished vintage, but it’ll still get you tipsy.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.