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Sheltered in place with ‘Uncorked’

TSD’s All Over Town columnist Brianna A. Smith

The prolonged isolation has required us to adapt our social practices, and find new ways to stay connected.

Instagram Live has served as a great option for many brands and marketers looking to socialize with their audience amid the ongoing pandemic.

As I was scrolling through my timeline, I was excited to see that The McBride Sisters were hosting a Wine & Watch (a conversation paired with your favorite glass of wine), featuring writer and director Prentice Penny to discuss his directorial debut of “Uncorked’ on Netflix.

“Uncorked” began streaming on Friday, March 27.

I was eager to tune into the Wine & Watch because I knew the majority of this movie had been shot in Memphis. As an aspiring Memphis filmmaker, I was excited to hear what Penny had to say about writing, filming and directing “Uncorked.”

The conversation didn’t reveal much about the film, but it definitely raised my anticipation to watch it.

The McBride Sisters own the largest African-American wine company in the United States, so the majority of their questions for Penny were geared towards the wine world and not necessarily towards the film. `

Penny did make a few statements, however, that stood out to me during the live conversation with the sisters.

“Production was not without challenges, both logistic and artistic. I’m trying to tell a narrative, dramatic story, in Memphis and I have to do that where people are really just sitting around drinking. … Well how do you make that visually interesting?” he said.

I wanted to know. It was one of the last statements Penny left with viewers, so it made me want to immediately watch.

What “Uncorked” does so effortlessly is tell the story of a family that’s not the stereotypical trauma that Hollywood has historically placed upon many black films.

Instead, it captures a relatable Memphis, seamlessly combining three expected ingredients — wine, barbecue and hip-hop.

The first scene offers the contrast of the picturesque scenes of a vineyard while Yo Gotti’s “Juice” plays in the background.

Penny mentioned in the Instagram live that he was keen to capture a diversity he felt is sometimes unacknowledged in wine.

“I wanted it to feel like there were lots of people of color in the world of wine, because there obviously are,” he said. “So that was a big thing to debunk, this idea that it’s just all white people. Because that’s not true.”

In the film, he cited black-owned businesses like Brown Estate in Napa, the McBride Sisters’ California-based venture and the wine projects of Dwyane Wade and Ayesha Curry.

The family drama stars Courtney B. Vance (“Ben is Back” and “American Crime Story”), Niecy Nash (“Selma,” “Claws” and “Getting On”), and Mamoudou Athie (“Patti Cake$” and “The Front Runner”).

It follows a young man from Memphis, who passionately fights to fulfill his dream of becoming a master sommelier while dealing with his father’s expectations that he’ll take over the family barbecue business.

This is a film about a father and son coming to terms with each other’s’ choices and learning to find a way forward, mixing tears and laughter together to make an exceptional film.

Penny, a writer on TV shows like “Insecure,” “Scrubs” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” confronted a similar dynamic with his own family.

“My grandfather started a furniture store and my father dropped out of college to run it. Growing up, that was supposed to be my responsibility and I just didn’t want to do it,” Penny said.

It is a story that has been told many times, but in Penny’s hands it is delivered deftly with humility, love, humor and blackness.

“I hope this film inspires people who might feel unable to express their dreams, especially men of color and certainly fathers and sons,” Penny said. “It’s rare that black people get to tell a father-son story without the father’s absence serving as the catalyst for the story. That was never my experience and I think it’s more important than ever that art reflects our humanity and who we are as regular people.

“I just want people to see themselves in worlds that they wouldn’t normally see themselves in. It’s a slice of life movie that gives us representation other than what is normally expected of us.”

“Uncorked” is an important movie. It’s the most relatable film based in Memphis and shot in Memphis that I have ever seen. It showcased some of Memphis’ businesses, artists and landmarks.

It highlighted a Memphis that I found relatable — a black, working middle-class, two-parent family who owned a local business. The film illustrated black ownership, entrepreneurship, love, family and generational wealth.

I didn’t know what a sommelier was before, but just seeing how the main character Elijah broke down the tastes of the wine to his love interest by comparing the taste to famous rappers (Chardonnay is like the Jay-Z of wines, Riesling is the Drake, while pinot grigio might be Kanye West)  made it more engaging.

The film’s soundtrack was also a hit! It’s filled with music by popular Memphis’ artists such as Yo Gotti, Moneybagg Yo, Key Glock, and Blac Youngsta.

“Uncorked” is a much-welcomed addition to my “social distancing binge watch list” and I suggest you add it to yours.

 

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