Sideways

"Excellent"

Sideways Review


Miles (Paul Giamatti) is the most self-aware lead character yet in an Alexander Payne film, so of course he's despondent. Payne's previous films specialize in characters grappling with self-delusion, like retiree Warren Schmidt of About Schmidt and self-important Tracy Flick of Election. But Miles is different -- he walks with the slumping posture of, well, a Paul Giamatti character, and he has no choice but to live by his insecurities.

Jack (Thomas Haden Church), on the other hand, covers his with several layers of restless horniness. Jack is a washed-up actor about to marry Christine (Alysia Reiner), and he's Miles' best friend from college, who doesn't understand why Miles can't just get over his divorce. Or his oft-rejected novel. Or his increasing dependence on wine, or the accompanying feeling that, as a middle-aged man, he has long ago peaked. Jack and Miles embark on a trip through California wine country, as a last hurrah for Jack's bachelorhood. Miles want to drink fine wine and play golf; Jack wants to drink anything and pick up women.

Miles and Jack meet Maya (Virginia Madsen) and Stephanie (Sandra Oh) on their trip, and soon we're watching a pair of vastly different pickup styles; Jack is heedless, and Miles heeds everything he can, as long as it's negative. Payne's films are often more a series of interrelated situations than a breakneck plot; after these four characters are introduced, the screenplay (by Payne and his collaborator Jim Taylor, adapted from the Rex Pickett novel) allows them to roam around a bit.

Sideways lacks the unique satiric vision of Election and About Schmidt, and covers less inspired, fairly typical midlife crisis material. Some will deem this a step in a more humane direction from Payne and Taylor, who have been accused (as nearly as all satirists are) of condescending to their characters. Sideways isn't as sharp or fresh as either of those films, but I applaud their refusal to repeat themselves in choosing a subject painfully aware of his own limitations, and Giamatti brings all of his twitching gravity from American Splendor into a less eccentric, more recognizable character. Church, a sitcom veteran, has the broader part to be sure, but he takes the time to really figure out Jack -- to let the character's childishness come into focus as the movie goes on (Jack starts out by acting like a teenager, and regresses).

No doubt he was helped by Payne, a skilled, unshowy director, especially with comedy -- watch how he keeps the victim of a mild beating just offscreen to subtly amplify the humor. The male-bonding wildness comes in unexpected bursts; the typical comedy-drama will start with the comedy, and then turn serious, while Sideways has the comfortably erratic rhythms of life. Payne holds back some of the biggest laughs in the movie, allowing the audience to get to know the characters before delivering funny payoffs.

But Sideways still ventures into more conventional territory than he's previously seen. Payne has never used devices like montages, soft-focus scenery, and dialogue dubbed over driving shots before; when they turn up here, the film feels imprecise. Payne's previous films made us look at our lives, because so many of the characters refused to do so themselves. Miles is a touching character, but his journey is slight in a way that even retirement-hazed, Hummel-toting Schmidt's was not; as vivid as his depression is, I never felt like he was in any real danger.

It feels churlish to complain that Sideways is merely a good film when, in fact, it has little, observant details and big, earned laughs that many directors would take several films to rack up. Not a false note is struck throughout the cast, even when Madsen has to talk through an extended metaphor. Most movies aren't better than Sideways -- it's just that Payne has directed several that are.

The lovely DVD includes deleted scenes, a silly commentary from Giamatti and Church, and a behind-the-scenes featurette.

Yum, fruity.



Sideways

Facts and Figures

Run time: 126 mins

In Theaters: Friday 21st January 2005

Box Office USA: $71.4M

Box Office Worldwide: $109.5M

Budget: $16M

Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Production compaines: Fox Searchlight Pictures, Michael London Productions, Sideways Productions Inc.

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 215 Rotten: 8

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Miles, as Jack, as Maya, as Stephanie, as Miles's Mother, as Victoria, Missy Doty as Cammi, as Christine Erganian, Shake Tukhmanyan as Mrs. Erganian, Shaun Duke as Mike Erganian, Robert Covarrubias as Miles's Building Manager, as Gary the Bartender, Stephanie Faracy as Stephanie's Mother, as Frass Canyon Pourer, as Cammi's Husband

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Imperium Movie Review

Imperium Movie Review

First-time filmmaker Daniel Ragussis takes an unusual approach to this thriller. Since it's based on...

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

The Girl With All the Gifts Movie Review

Like a 10-years-later follow-up to 28 Days Later, this small British thriller takes a refreshingly...

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

The Magnificent Seven Movie Review

Director Antoine Fuqua brings his usual fascination with violence to this remake of the iconic...

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

Bridget Jones's Baby Movie Review

As it's been 12 years since the last Bridget Jones movie, expectations aren't too high...

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week - The Touring Years Movie Review

A-list director Ron Howard worked with the surviving Beatles to assemble this engaging documentary, which...

Blair Witch Movie Review

Blair Witch Movie Review

It's been 17 years since The Blair Witch Project shook up the cinema and created...

Anthropoid Movie Review

Anthropoid Movie Review

Outside the Czech Republic, few people know about Operation Anthropoid, a spy mission in 1943...

Advertisement
Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

Kubo and the Two Strings Movie Review

From Laika (The Boxtrolls), this is one of the most beautiful, sophisticated animated films in...

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

Captain Fantastic Movie Review

An offbeat comedy-drama with a timely kick, this charming family road trip takes on some...

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Hell or High Water Movie Review

Sicario screenwriter Taylor Sheridan delivers another fiercely intelligent, engaging story that maintains high suspense while...

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

The 9th Life of Louis Drax Movie Review

With heavy overtones of Hitchcockian mystery and intrigue, this stylish thriller is the enjoyably melodramatic...

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

Kickboxer: Vengeance Movie Review

The 1989 Muay Thai action movie Kickboxer starred a young Jean-Claude Van Damme, who pops...

Julieta Movie Review

Julieta Movie Review

Iconic Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar is back with another powerfully complex female-centred drama, along the...

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping Movie Review

An astute satire of the pop music business, this raucous mock-documentary is consistently hilarious from...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.