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Spoilers for the Netflix movie Uncorked are in play throughout this article, if it wasn’t clear by the mention of the movie’s ending in the headline. Don’t say we didn’t warn ya!
At first glance, Netflix’s Uncorked looks like a rom-com with a fun wine subplot or a movie about a young black man integrating into the less diverse world of wine sommelier work, but if you’ve actually watched the Netflix movie hailing from director Prentice Penny, Uncorked is more about a father-son relationship than anything else. In fact, this means the movie doesn’t end quite as predictably as you might think.
But before we delve into why Uncorked’s ending plays out differently than you’d assume from watching the trailer for the movie, let’s talking about what exactly happens at the end of the movie. Again, we’re about to get into spoilers.
What Uncorked Seems To Be About Early On
Uncorked tells the story of Elijah (Mamoudou Athie), a young man who works multiple jobs at his dad’s BBQ joint in Memphis and at a wine store. In his heart, he dreams of being a sommelier in the United States and his new girlfriend Tanya (Sasha Compere) encourages him to go back to school and reach for his dream.
From the first few moments in this Netflix movie, it really felt like this was setting up for a positive story about going after your dreams and maybe also meeting the person you are supposed to spend your life with. Meanwhile, Uncorked actually makes things a whole lot more complicated.
First, Elijah’s relationship with his father is pretty rocky, as Louis (Courtney B. Vance) expects him to grow up and take over the BBQ business, which Elijah resists. His mother Sylvia (Niecy Nash), a cancer survivor, tries to keep the peace between the two of them, but halfway through the movie her cancer comes back.
At this point, Elijah has moved on from the BBQ joint and is attending sommelier school, including a special course in Paris, France. The family complications end up taking a front seat to the wine tasting, for good reason. Yet, this complicated storyline ends up being sadder and more realistic than the escapist wine fantasy it looks as if the movie may be setting up for early on.
What Actually Happens At The End Of Netflix’s Uncorked
There’s a lot of stuff that happens at the end of Uncorked. Sylvia dies and Elijah has to return from Sommelier school. He continues to practice wine tasting in the meantime, but he’s sad and distracted. Meanwhile, the strain of his relationship with his father (not to mention his relationship with Tanya) only gets worse, but Elijah tries to do the right thing and help his pops with the BBQ joint.
There’s a turning point in the Netflix movie where Elijah and his dad are watching basketball at a bar and Louis sees his son capably order wine for the first time. The skillset of being a sommelier actually begins to feel valuable to Louis and the two work together to try and get Elijah to the point where he can pass the test. Again, we seem back on the track of the happy ending escapist plot.
Instead, Elijah passes the theory portion of his sommelier test and fails the service and tasting components, going back to work with his dad at the BBQ joint.
This ending is actually foreshadowed early on in Uncorked when Elijah’s super capable boss at the wine store talks about previously having to take the test three times before he ultimately passed. Given all of the stressors in Elijah’s life (and the fact he is very bad at serving while in school to be a sommelier) it’s not a huge shock he doesn’t pass the first time around. He ultimately decides to keep studying in the movie’s final minutes, but we don’t get to see what Elijah’s fate ultimately is; we only know he will try again, and that seems to be enough for the movie.
It’s an ending that’s realistic to life, but somewhat unsatisfying, at least for some viewers, who again, may have thought they signed up for a different kind of movie entirely.
Why Uncorked’s Ending Is Different Than You’d Guess
Penny Prentice has spoken out about Uncorked around the time of its March 27th release and he’s been asked about the ending of the Netflix movie given it is different than expected. Regardless, he told Collider that journey was the story he wanted to tell, also noting that people “put in the hard work all the time,” but it doesn’t always pan out the way you’d expect. He said:
To me, it was kind of the point of the movie, right? Which is, you don’t always get what you’re trying to go after. That’s really the point is the dad kind of says to him earlier on in the movie, he is sort of wisely saying, ‘You never stick with anything. When things get hard, you give up.’ And what he’s really trying to do is grow his son into a man, right? The dad believes that that will happen by teaming up for this restaurant and becoming more stable, and that’s sort of the thing. And the son’s journey is really, ‘Hey, when things don’t go your way, how do you respond when things get really tough?’
In addition, Penny Prentice also talked to Upproxx about the notes he got in regards to Uncorked which had been in development for some time (in fact, President Obama was still in office when the movie was first coming together). He said a version of the movie could have been about race or about other facets of life in America, but he wanted to make it more personal.
It was never a comment about race… And that was what’s funny: I did get a lot of notes from certain executives in the beginning about, well it should be this or that, and I was like, that’s the expected version of that movie. That’s the thing that you’re latching into that, but people of color, my black friends who are succeeding in their fields they’re in — I mean, we might complain about the lack of representation or the lack of diversity in our thing, but never in our minds is the idea that we can’t achieve it.
In making the film more personal and about family, the ending then wasn’t so clear cut, nor was it the happy ending a lot of us have come to expect from certain Netflix movies, particularly those with romantic and comedic beats.
What People Think Of Uncorked’s Ending
Look, there are plenty of Netflix movies that have ultimately had twists and turns in their endings, and Uncorked is no exception. I was personally a little surprised by the ending of Uncorked when I watched, but it’s kind of nice to see a movie without predictable Point A to Point B to Point C beats. Opinion has seemingly varied wildly on the Netflix movie's ending. Some simply wanted the escapist fantasy the movie seemed to be.
Others liked that things did not pan out for Elijah in exactly the way he planned for, as it felt more realistic.
Some overall liked the movie but just did not get where the director was going with that ending.
Ultimately, it seems like people’s mileage varied depending on how their expectations matched up with reality. I’m curious what CinemaBlend readers thought of Netflix’s Uncorked ending though.