As regular readers know, this Blog is a great supporter of the Fine Arts. You will recall, for example, from this post about music and the visual arts. We celebrate all of those things that go into making a richer and fuller life, a life of movement from the shallows to the depths. Since everyone is sitting at home watching television all day anyway, as a public service we offer a film review. There is, after all, more to life than barbecue.
This film is about barbecue.
Uncorked is a Netflix production that involves barbecue and a father’s conflict with his son. It tells the story of a barbecue place founded by a grandfather, carried on by his son (the father in Uncorked) who dropped out of college, thereby giving up his own dreams to keep the family business alive. The father hopes that now his own son will carry on and expand the family heritage. The son has other plans: he wants to travel his own path, one that wends wineward.
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child.
Specifically, the son wants to take all of the extended family’s money and go to Paris to drink wine. Who wouldn’t? His ostensible goal is to go to a school to become a Master Sommelier. In this the son is supported by his doting mother and his pretty girlfriend.
That’s the framework: the film thus pits a grumpy father against his wife, the son’s girlfriend, and the son’s desire to go his own way in life. You just may be able to guess who wins that battle. If not, I won’t spoil it for you. Much of the tension of the film comes from the fact that becoming a Master Sommelier is really, really hard. You have to join a study group, just as in law school movies like The Paper Chase and the ineffable Legally Blond. There’s a thread of tension about a black guy out of place in an ultra-white environment that is handled with great grace, and more tension in the question of which will flow faster: the wine or the money.
It’s a story with universal appeal. Henry IV has held up well — both parts — and in terms of quality, the sequel had no serious competition until Godfather 2. And Uncorked is visually stunning. There are gorgeous views of vast piles of hickory in the yard to which the father drags his reluctant son go to buy wood. No gas-powered Southern Pride smokers here — True ‘Cue! There is gorgeous footage of glowing hickory coals. There are mouthwatering shots of pork being chopped, and luscious pictures of chicken and ribs — ribs! — straight from the pit. Let me pause for a moment to get a snack.
I’m back. I did find two faults with the film. First, I disliked the rap music in the early parts of the film in which seemingly every word began with an N, a B, or an F. I know, I know, they have to set a milieu, but does it need to be so … nasty? Much more bothersome are multiple deeply upsetting scenes of the students spitting out the wine after they’d tasted it. And these weren’t your usual student wines. No Boone’s Farm here. It was really, really good wine! Again, I understand that people are paid to do that, but it was heartbreaking. And the film didn’t address why the son or anyone else would sacrifice a life eating barbecue for a life in which you can’t swallow your glass of 2016 Stag’s Leap Cask 23 Cabernet. Just where did he go wrong? Maybe there’ll be a prequel.
Well, film, like theater, demands suspension of disbelief. Ultimately, the film is well cast and well acted, and directed with a deft, light touch. It’s a nice take on a good theme, a heartfelt story that you will enjoy. Give it a watch.
And while you’re watching, click “follow” on our front page to receive Blog posts in your email box. Or bookmark us and check in from time to time. If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state, or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event). Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome. And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.