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

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The Belko Experiment Movie Review

The kill-or-die scenario that this movie hinges on isn't something new; it's been used in...

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

The Fate of the Furious Movie Review

With the more dumbed-down title Fast & Furious 8 outside of North America, this overcrowded...

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

A Quiet Passion Movie Review

British writer-director Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea) is an expert at digging beneath the...

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

The Sense of an Ending Movie Review

Julian Barnes' Booker Prize-winning novel is adapted into a remarkably intelligent, gently involving film anchored...

The Boss Baby Movie Review

The Boss Baby Movie Review

There isn't a lot of subtlety in this madcap animated comedy, which is more aimed...

Advertisement
City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

City of Tiny Lights Movie Review

After the latest incarnation of Dredd, director Pete Travis shifts gears drastically for this complex...

Going in Style Movie Review

Going in Style Movie Review

This is only technically a remake of the iconic 1979 film starring movie icons George...

Graduation Movie Review

Graduation Movie Review

Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) recounts another staggeringly detailed...

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

Ghost in the Shell Movie Review

This sci-fi thriller is so visually stunning that it deserves to be mentioned in the...

Free Fire Movie Review

Free Fire Movie Review

Basically a 90-minute shoot-out, there isn't a lot to this movie. British filmmaker Ben Wheatley...

Life Movie Review

Life Movie Review

Like a mash-up of Alien and Gravity, this ripping sci-fi horror movie is very effective...

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

The Lost City of Z Movie Review

Based on a true story, it's the historical aspect of these events that holds the...

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.