Sideways Movie Review


Sideways Movie Review
Aw! He lika da wine!

From Joe's Shelf


Semi-recently divorced (2 years) writer/high school teacher Miles (Paul Giamatti, The Amazing Spider-Man 2), takes his soon-to-be-married college buddy/television actor friend Jack (Thomas Hayden Church, Spider-Man 3), on a week long trip through the Santa Barbara wine country as a wedding gift. This is one of those movies that has to be savored like the wines that it portrays. Sideways is a buddy comedy for all intents and purposes, yet the subtlety of the flawed and imperfect life that Giamatti portrays, is always present. Church is flawed as well, but in a childish way that screams insecurity.

Together they give a compelling performance as two friends who know the best and worst of each other. The plot starts off slow, then builds to moments of human honesty and/or hilarity. And if you pay attention, you can see that when the intricacies of wine making are described, they reflect off onto the characters or to their wishful thoughts of themselves. This is a movie for wine lovers, however director Alexander Payne (About Schmidt) is so good at displaying his vision, that he makes even people such as myself who hate wine, want to jump onto the bandwaggon regardless.

The characters love wine, I love the characters, so that makes me love wine while I'm watching this. The scenery through Southern California areas like the Santa Ynez Valley, Los Olivos, Solvang, and Casmalia, are mildly beautiful and flatters the film instead of exaggerating it. The score's moderate level of jazz adds to the playfulness of the film, and then convincingly turns more into a tender piano during the third act.

Looks and tone aside, the rapport between the actors is what sells Sideways. Miles feels worthless as a writer and is so afraid of getting hurt again, that he has closed himself off to experiencing any other kind of joy besides what he gets from the inside of a bottle. Giamatti plays Miles so wholeheartedly, that his moods affect ours as well. When he has an opportunity for even a piece of happiness, I find myself rooting for him like The Little Engine That Could. And when he fails, the blows hit me the same.

There's a part of him that reminds me of my own struggles with everyday life, but that's for another article. Jack is his optimistic inspiration when he's too afraid to put himself out there. The problem is, that Jack isn't a fully stable person himself. Church is so damn funny and full of life here, that even when he's making the dumbest decisions that will have dire consequences, we still cheer him on. When it comes time for Miles and Jack to go out with Maya (Virginia Madsen, The Number 23) and Stephanie (Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy) on a double date, you can see who's comfortable and who isn't. Oh doesn't get much dialogue here, but Madsen is exactly fit for this film. Maya is like the opposite of results to Miles'.

They're both hurt from previous failures, but she has become a strong survivor compared to Miles' "curl up and die" attitude. Together, they make for an interesting contrast of characters, and when the inevitable misunderstanding comes between them, it's sad to see, but touching to watch. Not everything's glum though. There are plenty of hilarious situations throughout to keep a sturdy balance.

Highs- "I am not drinking any f***ing merlot!", golf course confrontations, "We are a winery, not a bar.", "Not now!", guilty by association ("Me?!"), the "We gotta go back" scene, and Miles' missed opportunity with Maya after her passionate wine speech makes me scream in disapproval every damn time!

Lows- I'm still pissed that Church and Madsen got Oscar noms, but not Giamatti! This isn't the first or last time that he's been overlooked either.

Sideways is a great buddy dramedy that ripens with every viewing, "And it tastes so f***ing good". If a film can make you interested in something that you have no desire to try, then you know that it's something special. Check this out and let me know what you think of it.

Rating- 8.5 out of 10

Sideways (2004)
R | 2h 6min | Adventure, Comedy, Drama | 21 January 2005 (USA)
Two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment embark on a week-long road trip through California's wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle.

Director: Alexander Payne
Writers: Rex Pickett (novel), Alexander Payne (screenplay)
Stars: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen