Current Issue #488

Film Review:

Although Mamoudou Athie and Courtney B Vance are certainly strong in this family drama from writer/director Prentice Penny, the plot is so familiar that, at times, you’ll be virtually reeling from déjà vu. 

Louis (Vance) has run the fam’s Memphis BBQ restaurant his whole life, and we of course kick off with a jaunty opening credits montage of him and others preparing delicious-looking nosh to the tune of Yo Gotti’s Juice. Naturally Louis wants his 20-or-so son Elijah (Mauritanian-American actor Athie, recently seen expiring horribly in Underwater) to carry on the family business, but Elijah wants to work with wine, and is introduced flirting with Tanya (Sasha Compère) by discussing various vintages as if they were classic hip-hop.

There’s long been trouble between the undisciplined Elijah and the stern Louis, and when Tanya helps Elijah decide to take a master sommelier course, the rift between them grows wider, much to the concern of Mama Sylvia (Niecy Nash, who has a few cool comic moments). And when Elijah is offered the chance to study in Paris, Louis can barely contain his disapproval, meaning that Vance gets to turn on his patented grumpy routine once more.

Yes, there’s quite a lot here to like, from the cutely-observed depiction of Elijah and Tanya’s blossoming relationship, to the deeply cool soundtrack cuts, to some pleasing supporting roles (like Matt McGorry as Elijah’s uptight student friend Harvard), to all the fabulous food and wine. But, again, it’s all so well-worn and obvious, with exactly what you’re expecting eventually happening to Sylvia and only a few minor narrative diversions into the final act, even if they barely detract from the beloved clichés.

Flavoursome enough without being especially nourishing, this will still be enjoyed by many out there looking for some sentimental sweetness in dark times. And prepare to see this plot wheeled out again next month. And then in June. And September. And twice in November. And then at Christmas. And…

Reviewer Rating

Uncorked (M) is now streaming on Netflix

DM Bradley

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