Warning: spoilers for Netflix’s Uncorked are in play. If you haven’t seen the film yet, you might want to come back once you’ve seen the movie for yourself.
The ending to writer/director Prentice Penny’s Netflix original film Uncorked has been a topic of discussion for viewers enjoying the latest streaming hit after its March debut. With Mamoudou Athie’s Elijah finding himself in a position that most folks might have wanted to go another way, one wouldn’t be blamed to think about whether or not the ending could have played out differently. As luck would have it though, the film's ending actually underwent a change during the writing process.
Speaking with Prentice Penny during a phone interview on behalf of Uncorked’s release, the subject of the much-debated ending came up during the conversation about the public’s reaction to the movie. Sure enough, Penny had originally planned to end Elijah’s pursuit of a master sommelier certification with the usual Hollywood conclusion.
Why Prentice Penny Changed The Ending To Uncorked
As he described his process of reshaping Uncorked’s ending into a more realistic outcome, Prentice Penny had a pretty good reason for why he turned that finale into something that he feels worked better:
No. Originally, the ending was he passed the test, because I was like ‘Oh yeah, he should pass!’ I put the script down, because I was working on other stuff, and then I came back to it, obviously with fresh thoughts, and one of the immediate thoughts I had was ‘Oh, he has to fail.’ Like, that’s the point, right? It’s what do you do when you don’t get the goal, which is kind of what his dad’s point is. Part of becoming a man is like, what do you do when you fall down? That’s really what he wants for his son. … To me, it was just false that he would get everything.
Similar to the remarks he’d given in previous discussions on Uncorked’s ending, the point of setting Elijah back when it came to his dream was, basically, to challenge him in a more realistic manner. Instead of just giving him what he wanted in life, Penny revised his script to give his protagonist a more relatable ending.
How Mamoudou Athie Reacted To Uncorked’s Ending
In another interview that was part of Uncorked’s press rounds, I spoke with Mamoudou Athie about how he felt about the close to his character’s story. His thoughts on how the movie ended are similar to what Prentice Penny provided above, but the detail that he adds to his viewpoint on the finale brings out another angle of interest. Athie said:
First off, [Elijah] gained something so much more than that material thing. Of course [master sommelier] is a wonderful distinction, but the whole journey of that movie isn’t just about him getting this master somm certification. It’s about him growing up, and coming into his own as a man, and really just finding [out], ‘Oh, this is what I’m going to do, and no matter how hard it is I’m going to stick to it.’ That’s the most valuable thing that anyone can get, over any kind of material thing; whether it’s a master somm pin, or whatever accolade it is in your chosen field.
In addition to agreeing with Prentice Penny’s take on Uncorked’s ultimate victory being Elijah’s perseverance in the face of defeat, Mamoudou Athie brings up a very good point, in that the journey’s end is ultimately the greater reward. Rather than just achieving his goal and walking away with a job well done on the first try, Elijah has learned that he can truly stick to a task if he sets his heart to it.
He has a goal in mind, and now that he’s learned to keep working, Elijah can go on to not only become a master sommelier, but practically work towards any other goal in life. Which is a major reason why this final ending works so much better, as seen in Mamoudou Athie’s remarks.
Why Uncorked’s Final Form Works Better
Pushing aside the usual Hollywood ending, where Elijah would have aced his master sommelier exam and gotten his dream gig, Prentice Penny gives his Uncorked audience an even better ending in return. Instead, Elijah learns a very real and grounded lesson, while continuing to work towards becoming the man he wants to be. And in the end, it’s the lesson that ultimately bridges the gap between himself and his father, Louis (Courtney B. Vance).
Throughout Uncorked’s narrative, Elijah and his father Louis spar about whether he should join the family barbecue business or if he should follow his passion in wine. The conflict doesn’t come from Louis thinking Elijah isn’t cut out to be a master sommelier, but rather the fact that he doesn’t want his son to spend so much time and money on something he’ll ultimately drop.
What Louis really feels is fear that his son will end up failing in life without a stable profession to fall back upon. Ultimately, by seeing Elijah make his way through the final phase of his journey, and seeing him jump back into his master sommelier studies after a temporary setback, Louis respects and accepts his son’s life choice.
By choosing this path, Uncorked values the journey over the destination. Rather than give folks a perfect ending to a path of manufactured drama, Prentice Penny’s script shows a father and son equalizing their expectations of each other, and learning more about where the other is coming from. If anything, it’s a happier, more fulfilling ending than the one that originally would have closed this Netflix original hit.
Of course, you, the audience, may still disagree with the ending that came out of Uncorked’s story; in which case, we’d like to hear more from you about why! Take our poll below, and don’t forget to leave comments as to why you may or may not agree with how things played out on screen.
Uncorked is currently available on Netflix for streaming.