SIDEWAYS

"Excellent"

SIDEWAYS Review


Many film critics obsess over how faithful certain movies are to their source novels, and whether or not the fans will appreciate the big screen version of their beloved book. Yet books are books and movies are movies, and their paths rarely cross except in the most superficial ways.

Now comes a film that was adapted from a book, and something special has happened. Alexander Payne's "Sideways" emerges as a full-fledged film, with a brilliant use of cinematic language and pacing, but also has a novelistic breadth without spilling much over the 2-hour mark.

It's a deceptively simple (at first), deep and thoughtful film in which two seemingly shallow, thoughtless buddies -- neurotically divorced failed novelist Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Id-fueled failed actor Jack (Thomas Haden Church) -- take a road trip into Southern California wine country just before Jack is due to get married.

Like many other male bonding films from "Road Trip" to "Y Tu Mamá También," their aim is to get laid. Or rather, Jack wants one last fling before his nuptials, while Miles is a genuine wine connoisseur that misses his ex-wife; he'd like to drink, enjoy and forget.

Their plans go awry when they meet a couple of local women. Maya (Virginia Madsen) is a waitress, divorcee and grad student who has known Miles for years -- and quite unexpectedly has a crush on him. Jack whisks a winery counter girl, Stephanie (Sandra Oh), off her feet and begins to think that he doesn't want to get married anymore. Neither woman knows about the impending wedding; all hell breaks loose when they find out.

It's misleading to describe what sounds like a conventional plot to "Sideways." The film feels more like spending a week with new friends; after a few days we get to see their bad sides. Miles frowns on Jack's philandering, but at the same time, he steals cash out of his mother's sock drawer and reads "Barely Legal" magazine. Nobody's perfect, and we like them just the same.

In that vein, director Alexander Payne ("Election," "About Schmidt") gives his four actors plenty to work with, and they all come up aces. It wouldn't be surprising to see this film nominated for four Oscar in acting categories.

Payne goes the extra mile by casting unconventional faces and giving them a chance -- in some cases their first -- to really shine. Giamatti was excellent in last year's "American Splendor" and Oh is already a beloved character actress, but when was the last time Madsen ("Candyman") really sunk her teeth into a great role? And until now Church was best known only for his role on TV's "Wings."

As a bonus, "Sideways" is very smart about wine and allows all that knowledge and research to come out in the dialogue, which further grounds this little world. These characters are very passionate on their chosen hobby, and their talk reflects that. You'll come out yearning for a glass of Pinot Noir.

Best of all, Payne doesn't let the source material (a recently published first novel by Rex Pickett, which the director optioned before it was published) weigh down his film adaptation. The director, who scripted with long-time collaborator Jim Taylor, remembers his cinema training and incorporates a few filmic touches -- some lovely split-screens, for example -- that enhance the wistful mood.

His rhythms are flawless. In one great scene, Miles blows a chance to kiss Maya, and we can almost hear the inner voices of the characters merely by reading their faces. Payne gives them the time, the light and the silence to pull that off. And, as a result, he has delivered one of the year's best American films.



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

Also starring:

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

The Book of Henry Movie Review

The Book of Henry Movie Review

Apparently, this offbeat script had been making the rounds in Hollywood for some 20 years...

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

Transformers: The Last Knight Movie Review

With this fifth Transformers movie, it seems clear that Michael Bay is still trying to...

Churchill Movie Review

Churchill Movie Review

This drama about the iconic British prime minister tells a darkly personal story set over...

Gifted Movie Review

Gifted Movie Review

This is one of those films that dances right up to the edge of soapy...

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Whitney: Can I Be Me Movie Review

Notorious British filmmaker Nick Broomfield teams up with Austrian music documentary producer Rudi Dolezal to...

The Mummy Movie Review

The Mummy Movie Review

To launch their new Dark Universe franchise, Universal has taken an approach that mixes murky...

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

My Cousin Rachel Movie Review

Daphne du Maurier's 1951 mystery-romance novel has been adapted for theatre, radio, TV and film,...

Advertisement
Wilson Movie Review

Wilson Movie Review

It's never helpful when a comedy becomes a bit too smug about its own quirkiness....

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

Interlude in Prague Movie Review

A fictionalised story from the life of Wolfgang Mozart, this lavishly produced period drama is...

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

The Hippopotamus Movie Review

This British satirical comedy may be a bit of a mess, but since it's based...

Detour Movie Review

Detour Movie Review

This may look like a rather typical American indie thriller, but British filmmaker Christopher Smith...

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Wonder Woman Movie Review

Boldly optimistic, this action-packed adventure breathes fresh life into the DC universe with a welcome...

Baywatch Movie Review

Baywatch Movie Review

Clearly, it's a risky proposition adapting a cheesy vintage TV series for the big screen:...

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales Movie Review

Subtitled Salazar's Revenge in the UK, this fifth film in the long-running series never quite...

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.