Posted to Movies at 09:56 AM on Apr 29, 2005
2004. Fox Searchlight Pictures. Directed by Alexander Payne. Starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh.
Wine talk bores the pants off me. Whenever there's a wine show or someone on a cooking show is talking about wine, my eyes glaze over and roll back into my skull. I can possibly find only one or two things sillier than all the fuss paid to spoiled grape juice.
So I didn't expect to enjoy Sideways at all.
And honestly, the first hour or so is kind of slow. These two guys, Miles and Jack (Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church) go to wine country for a week. Jack is getting married. Now, I am of the opinion that Jack is a sex addict. My husband didn't see it when I floated the theory past him, but I think it really works: Miles is most definitely an alcoholic and I saw little tiny references to addiction and dependence all through the film.
Anyway, so Jack and Miles meet these two girls, Maya and Stephanie (Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh). They are both wine nuts, too. Jack has the screaming hots for Stephanie and neglects to inform her of his marital status. The best part of the whole movie is the scene where Stephanie confronts Jack.
If you can get into the first hour, the second is a real treat. All of the rambling pays off in a big way. As advertised, it's pretty funny, but it's really not. That's part of the problem with movies like Sideways. Movie studio people don't know how to advertise movies that are funny/sad/poignant so they make commercials that are misleading and confusing. Fargo is the perfect example. From the commercials, one would conclude that Fargo is a laugh-a-minute romp.
ANYWAY, Giamatti wasn't nominated for an Oscar for this role. Lots of people were plenty mad about that. He, indeed, was really, really good. But I liked Oh and Madsen even better. I've loved Madsen since Long Gone and Oh is gorgeous.
I saw a lot of similarities between Sideways and Closer. In a weird way, the former is almost a tamer version of the latter. But, you know, better. Sideways is a must-see.
If you haven't mailed this back yet, I'll beg you to give it another look and reconsider the first half, which I consider much, much better. The second half of the film is where there's, you know, a story. The first half is all about character, and it just nails it. Nails it. I sorta wish the rest of the movie was like the first half.
PS: Despite all that, I have two favorite moments--one in the first half and one in the second. In the first, the Giamatti character looks at a picture of him and his father while he's visiting his mother's bedroom. That's Paul Giamatti's real father in that picture with him--former Major League Baseball Commissioner (and former Harvard president) A. Bartlett Giamatti. In the second, wasn't that hilarious when Haden Church chases Giamatti down the grassy hill?
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