7 Aspects of the Black Family Experience in Uncorked

Uncorked quickly became one of the most viewed and talked about films on screen. The complexity, simplicity, and authenticity of the story make it compelling. We peer inside the lives of this family and see all their joy and pain up close. Prentice Penny gives a true look inside the Black family experience in Uncorked.

Don’t get me wrong, the Black family experience isn’t monolithic. Harold and I have extremely different upbringings. But there are definitely some themes that hold true.

uncorked poster netflix
Photo: Netflix

Generational Expectations Hold Power

How do you choose between family and your dream? –Elijah

Uncorked is a story of the everyday struggles between a father and son. In an exclusive interview on his response to the movie’s success, Prentice Penny made a poignant statement about that struggle. “This is a story about a father-son conflict. But that arises from the father’s presence and not his absence.”

Louis’ constant presence in Elijah’s life is a challenge because his expectations apply pressure. Too often in the Black family experience disagreement is taken as disrespect. That makes it hard to follow a dream that’s misunderstood or undervalued.

Mothers Hold It Together

Sylvia is the translator between her husband and son who don’t speak the same language. -Prentice Penny

Black families are historically matriarchal. This history dates back to slavery. But this is a feel-good piece, so that’s all I’m going to say about that.

Sylvia tries to get Louis to encourage Elijah. Photo: Nina Robinson

Whether married or single, raising their own children or everybody else’s, Black mothers and women are the backbones of the Black family experience and the community.

Related Posts: Inside Uncorked: An Exclusive Interview with Prentice Penny

Fathers Express Love by Doing

Do you know how hard your grandfather worked to keep that stand in the family? -Louis

The most powerful statements between Louis and Elijah are the things that remain unsaid. Neither of them ever says “I love you” or “I’m sorry.”  Prentice does this on purpose. Both understand when the other expresses these feelings even without saying so.

Louis expresses his love for Elijah by working hard, being a provider, and teaching him the family business. He learns to express his love the way Elijah needs it when he shows up to be supportive when he takes the master sommelier test.

Black Love is the Real Deal

I know if I’m here cleaning with you at midnight I better be your girlfriend. -Tonya

Penny’s goal was to share a story about three-dimensional Black men who live and love, men who work and want. What strikes me about Uncorked is that the main love story isn’t a romantic one. The main love story is centered on the relationship between a father and a son. Black men don’t always get the credit they should for the way they love their children despite what they may feel for their child’s mother.

Penny also departs from the notion that romantic love equals pain by highlighting how positively the couples were able to work through conflict. Louis and Sylvia have a sincere, fun, affectionate love.  As Penny said, “[They] love each other and they like each other.” Elijah and Tonya push one another’s buttons but also fiercely support and encourage each other to be better. They experience the challenges of a couple early in their love story.

Related Posts: 50+ Black Culture Movies GenX Parents Should Watch with Their Teens

Extended Family is the Rule

When they die we gon’ get all this. -JT

Everyone has a cousin like JT. You know, the family member that consistently reminds you where you are from. And everyone has that aunt that you’re not really sure if she’s blood-related or not. But she’s definitely family. At some point, even Tonya becomes a part of the family and is present for the regular family dinner. Which more than likely happened on a Sunday because that’s what we do in the Black family experience, right?

Even the community comes together as a family to help Elijah raise money for his exchange program. The means of support in the Black community has always come from banning together and leaning upon the village. And that’s family. 

Can’t Cook? Get Clowned

Noone’s going to try my ambrosia salad? -Brenda

We just gonna let it cool off first. -Her Own Damn Husband

Y’all remember the movie Soul Food. I know you do. Food is integral to the Black family experience. But even more important than the food is how it’s prepared and by whom. Nearly every food reference in Black Culture is swiftly followed by the question, “Who made it?” In Black families, if you can’t cook you WILL get clowned. Even by your own damn husband. 

Photo: Nina Robinson

Food is used to express caring, concern, and comfort. Sylvia offered food to Louis when she knew he was worried about her health. Louis offered food to Elijah to console him after the disappointment of failing the test.  In the Black family experience, food is love. Even bad food, but we will tell you about it. 

We Always Live in Two Worlds

Chardonnay is like the Jay-Z of wines. -Elijah

I’ve read some review of Uncorked that didn’t believe the music – authentic Memphis style hip hop – matched the theme, tone, and tenor of the movie. That’s only true if you don’t appreciate the cognitive dissonance of living in two worlds at the same time. Code-switching isn’t learned, it’s innate. 

Louis was able to interface with his customers personally and his suppliers professionally. Sylvia was able to bridge the gap between Louis the Baby Boomer and Elijah the Millennial. Elijah could wax poetically about rap and wine, and spit game in the process. And do so without ever losing his authenticity or his Black card, even though his family didn’t understand it. 

There is so much more I could share about the way this movie highlights Black family life in a manner we don’t often get to see on screen. 

What did you observe about the Black family experience in Uncorked? 

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