I should’ve known this quirky drama would forever hold a special place in my heart. Movies with four official titles usually do. So whether you know it as Uncorked, At Sachem Farm, Trade Winds, or Higher Love — or, far more likely, don’t know it at all — this flick is well worth ninety-four minutes of your time.
Flashback: it was the summer of 1999. The year of the Euro, Napster, and President Clinton’s acquittal. I was a sophomore in high school lounging in my friend Allison’s basement for a sleepover. And yes, I had bangs.
We all make mistakes.
To be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot about that first viewing of Uncorked. I’m almost positive I saw it on LaserDisk. But I do remember one particular scene — vividly. And have remembered it for the last thirteen years.
This is fairly impressive, considering I forgot my own address the other day while I was ordering a pair of boots online. And it wasn’t the first time.
“A story of love and redemption,” the movie poster promised. I’m guessing the first draft read something like “A story of love, redemption, wine, manganese mining, relatives you’re embarrassed of, fanatical gardening, and oversized, Plexiglas lawn ornaments.” Writer-director John Huddles simply calls it “a modern-day fable about what happens when your worldly ambition collides with the love of your life.”
Ross (Rufus Sewell before A Knight’s Tale, The Illusionist, and The Holiday) is a bankrupt entrepreneur who returns home to sell his family’s priceless wine collection so he can afford to buy a manganese mine. By his side are girlfriend Kendall (Minnie Driver before Return to Me and An Ideal Husband but after Good Will Hunting) and eccentric Uncle Cullen (Nigel Hawthorne before a bunch of movies I’ve never heard of and after a bunch of movies I’ve never heard of) who’s a little busy right now living atop a two-story-high pillar in the backyard. You’ll also catch a glimpse of Gregory Sporleder (after The Rock but before Black Hawk Down) in a pair of Spandex workout pants that’ll have you seriously reconsider running 26.2 miles.
No, that wasn’t the scene I was talking about before.
As Ross’s family tries to get him back on track, and at the urging of Amelia Heinle, he finds himself in a flower-laden courtyard picking up his guitar for the first time in four years. Despite the fact he only does it to get Heinle to date his societal-misfit brother, Ross sits down to play a song (by Jeff Danna) that is quite simply the best piece of guitar I’ve ever heard.
And that is what I’ve carried around with me for thirteen years. That melody, that memory, that moment. That’s what I somehow managed to unearth from my convoluted memory once the Internet made it big (thanks Al) and IMDB was born. That song was one of the first I downloaded once iTunes took over the world. That song is what I think of every time Rufus Sewell gallops towards Heath Ledger and tries to decapitate him with his broadsword.
Now, Pearl Jam, Rolling Stones, Deep Purple fans, don’t start crocheting voodoo dolls in my likeness quite yet, I beg you. I’m not saying Ross’s Concert will show up on any collector’s edition CD of the top 50 greatest guitar riffs of all time. It won’t.
But it’s excellent. Haunting yet hopeful, sad yet soulful. Just give it a listen before you make up your mind:
As if the song wasn’t enough to win your heart, you also have Minnie accidentally whispering to her former flame mid-riff:
“Don’t you sometimes miss me?”
“Sorry?” (As if to say, “I can’t hear anything. These pants are too tight.”)
“Uhh…Life is such a mystery.”
You’ll also enjoy such memorable lines as Uncle Cullen’s: “His karma was constipated. I gave him an enema,” and Ross’s “I’d run up to the roof to keep my uncle from falling off; all of a sudden I wanted to push him. Typical of my family.”
So whether Ross’s Concert sticks with you like it did with me or not, you’ll enjoy (or at least be amused) by the other 89 minutes of this film. Good, bad, or indifferent, it is quite simply unlike anything you’ve seen before.
Go ahead. Get Uncorked. Or find yourself At Sachem Farm. Or beware the Trade Winds. Or go in relentless search of your Higher Love.
Whatever you call it, you won’t be sorry.