Jack is about to get married, and decides to spend the week before the wedding living it up in California's wine country. Accompanying him is his neurotic, sad sack teacher/best friend Miles, a real wine snob. The two spend a lot of time enjoying wine, women, and life, and also trying to deal with midlife crises and life choices.
The film, typical of Payne's work, is a nice bittersweet mixture of funny and sad, but it's got an undeniable realness about it, so, despite some uncomfortableness now and then, it works quite well and makes it easier to relate to.
The cast was perfectly picked, and they give some Oscar caliber performances. It's just too bad they all got snubbed. At least this film got a Best Picture nod, even if it too got snubbed.
I suppose this film is the source of annoyance and irritation for people who work at liquor stores and wineries, having to deal with people who go to rip on merlot or pick up some pinot noir, but hey, at least it's a sign this movie was watched and enjoyed by people.
Give this one a shot. It's a touching and nice film that really sings. It's incredibly well written, directed, and acted, and is probably Payne's best film, which is really saying something given his track record.
Upon re-watching, I'm bumping this rating up by a full star. This is a story of a real-life J. Alfred Prufrock, preparing a face to meet the faces that he meets, and in general, always being let down by life. There may be too many slow music montages, the one metaphor just before the hour mark is _way_ too heavy-handed, and the whole parade-your-pain style of creativity isn't for everyone, but this film has a lot going for it.
A couple of years ago, a friend told me that Paul Giamatti was "robbed" of the Oscar for this film. I bit my tongue. But his character is so believable. The story is honest, engrossing, and the "too real" bits only last so long before moving into more absurd, depressing, blackly funny and/or poetically just moments. That might be the best way to describe Sideways: an okay movie made up of great moments, as two friends embark on a road trip through wine country: Paul Giamatti is like the angel on one shoulder and Thomas Haden Church the devil on the other, and where this movie shines is in their conflict. Like all male friendships, they sort of love each other, but they sort of want to beat each other up...
Oh, and the first time I watched this movie, it was on an airplane. My money says that some parts were omitted to keep it safe if somebody's kid turned it on. With adequate time and space to appreciate all the aromatic notes of the film's flavour, perhaps (like a fine wine) this one gets better with age.**
**-WINNER, Corniest Review Sentence I've Ever Written
I was fortunate enough to be able to round up my family to watch this on Christmas Day, as we swirled and drank our leftover Australian and French reds with Camemberts, fresh mangos, cherries and grapes. There was one golf scene that sent my Dad into the hardest laughing fit I have ever seen in my life. His face was scrunched up, seized by the chuckles for a couple minutes and I think he almost sprained his stomach. He's also a huge wine buff, so I think he enjoyed the movie.
The main male characters, Miles and Jack, strangely complement each other. They couldn't be more different, and its hard to imagine them being friends. Their goals, insecurities, and instincts, differ vastly resulting in both awful and hilarious consequences. Miles' frustration erupts in his upending a swill bucket while Jack nails anything that moves, terming that his "plight."
The female leads are incredible as well. Sandra Oh delivers an outrageous performance, and I was in love with Virginia Madsen at the end of the film. The fact that this movie brought her back into the national spotlight is one of its greatest accomplishments. She represents the second chance at happiness that we all crave so badly. It's a very poignant, human love story.
No scene is superfluous in Sideways. The naked husband running down the street is raucously funny, at least. Maybe my favorite and the least expected along with the swill bucket, is the staged car accident to cover up the well-deserved beating inflicted on Jack. Its both a hilarious and bittersweet journey into midlife.
Lovely scenery, Thomas Haden Church's irrepressible performance and the usual good work from director Alexander Payne.
Or Paul Giamatti. He's usually enough for me.