The latest Netflix production about wine. Or nearly.
If you choose to watch a movie called “Uncorked”, or “The Sommelier” in its Italian version, you might expect to find characters with a high level of learning dressed in uniform, the official pin on the blazer, best French and Italian labels introduced during grand-tastings or panel of experts.
You might also expect a mile-long cellar as the running track for the career of an up-and-comer sommelier. One could also expect a misunderstood wine genius who works as a busboy and spends his night-time studying wine bibles, sharing a shabby flat with his grandma and younger brothers.
Now forget all of this, forget both the gala atmosphere and the fairy tale that becomes true and listen to rock’n’soul .
I’ll take you to Memphis.
To understand the essence of the movie, I ask you to concentrate on the following combination of colours, and abstain from misleading personal judgements:
Starting from the left:
Blue-green conveys reassurance, loyalty and sense of trust.
Ochre and sand are elegant and delicate, but they hide a power: the faded energy of yellow. They represent a warm home, your personal shelter; the rejection for everyday life is still on a subconscious level. Ochre and sand thus represent a seemingly peaceful life.
Brown means durability, it makes you think about home, old furniture redolent of dust and life, of fatigue and scent of cooked meals.
Then Bordeaux comes. A “wise relative” of red, symbolizing irruent passion. Bordeaux means strength, confirmation, complexity.
If you look at the palette again, you may notice that our eyes will always go to the Bordeaux section. However, our eyes are less fatigated by the view of the other colours; with a metaphor, we know where calmness is, but are also convinced that we must look further and seek to get the best for us. However, this does not always happen; it occurs when we really love something and when we realize this is the reason we are born.
Now, straight to the point: the plot. The scheme is pretty common: the movie describes the daily routine in a family-run BBQ restaurant, opened by the grandfather of the protagonist and characterized by sleazy decors. This is a place where every day is always the same, where the costumers come again everyday (they are often relatives), and where pork-ribs represent the certainty of a hot, low-cost meal.
The protagonist, Elijah, has the great dream of becoming a Master Sommelier but the trip in Europe for studying the exam is too expensive for his family. Everyone supports him but the father, who feels betrayed for his son’s choice. A misfortune interrupts the flow of events while Elijah seemed to be closer than ever to his goal. The betrayed father then gets closer to his son and decides to leave him free, but he always hopes, selfishly, that one day the son will give up wine and run the family restaurant.
There would be all the ingredients for the American sensationalism: the stereotype of African-American people characterized by hip-swaying charms, very long braids hairstyle, popular-blues setting, the wine shop manager – a sommelier – that becomes the tutor of the boy before the exam, the genuine love of a girl that in her life has never seen anything but Memphis, clichés like: Chardonnay is the granddaddy of wine, versatile, smooth…, and the sweet face of a boy that will never surrender in the name of his love for wine but slows often down his career because of a sense of duty towards his family.
Nevertheless, although characters are depicted in brown and ochres atmospheres, where the plot is standardly developed, with no mysteries, and where everyone loves everyone, there are no attempts to depict a corny situation. The spectator is not headed to feel a sense of pity towards the boy and his efforts, or to be angry with a father that does not accept his son’s happiness. Everyone is driven by his personal ideals: right or wrong it doesn’t matter. Objectivity does not exist in this movie.
Therefore, it is quite difficult to give an opinion on every character; the overall atmosphere is delicate and soft, without excesses. For the same reason, the level of involvement is quite weak. Our will is split in two: a part of us roots for the promising and humble boy and hopes he could reach the Master Sommelier Diploma, but at the same time the other part of us considers Elijah out of his role when compared to his classmates. It is a desired effect, I dare think.
Topics as love and friendship are not detailed, but they are in a soft-coloured background as to highlight the most important component of the movie: Elijah’s passion for wine. The Bordeaux colour of the palette.
Don’t expect a movie about wine; after all the web is enough full of webinars, podcasts, specialized articles about such theme… Perhaps, the point of this movie, set in a such shabby place, could be to tell the overwhelming power one need to deal with his love for wine. To tell the efforts we are willing to do for fulfil our high expectations far away from home, in a competitive climate, even when we have to admit that the most hateful classmate has recognized the almond in the glass, that scent that you haven’t acknowledged even after a repetitive smelling.
Everything is perceived as we are observing the world with blurry glasses and are disturbed by that warm colour, the Bordeaux, that according to a strange rule, always fits flawlessly with the other colours and, at the same time, looks like their evolution.