Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Sideways (2004) - ★★★★

Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Rex Pickett (Novel), Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Stars: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh

If Sideways achieved anything, it's that it made me want to drink wine... and lots of it! I'm not a wine enthusiast. In fact, I can't stand wine! There's a lot to say when a movie can make you crave something you've disliked for years. Oh, and I found it to be a pretty fantastic film too. The dialogue is really witty and realistic, as are the performances. To be perfectly honest, I don't 'relate' to this movie at all. I'm not middle aged, I've never been divorced, I don't like wine, and I'm not a struggling novelist. BUT, Alexander Payne did a marvellous job at revealing the life of a man who has been, and is going through these problems. It's both really entertaining, and painfully irritating. I didn't 'love' this movie, but technically it's a really well made film. Most critics think it's a masterpiece... REALLY? I don't think so.

Miles (Paul Giamatti) is a depressed, struggling writer who hangs onto hope that his book may be published. His somewhat childish friend, Jack (Thomas Haden Church), is engaged to be married. The two embark on a week of wine tasting and freedom before Jack ties the knot. Along the way, Miles tries to battle his depression, whilst Jack goes through a liaison filled mid-life crisis. It's a journey of last chances and self-discovery, filled with many laughs and many cringe-inducing moments.

Miles was great, but there was only so much stupidity I could take from Jack.
I love movies that have a real authentic feeling to them. Thanks to Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church's completely natural performances, we've got a movie that just rings true to the heart. These two actors were perfect in this film, deserving Oscar nominations for Leading and Supporting roles. To me, this is Giamatti's greatest performance. His character is a flawed asshole (IMO), but somehow I enjoyed following his journey the whole way. He makes stupid decisions, but there's just something REAL to him which makes his story so darn entertaining.

Whereas Jack is a pathetic human being in almost every way imaginable. He describes himself as so, "All I know is that I'm an actor. All I have is my instinct." Yup, he pretty much makes really stupid, selfish, disgusting decisions. I didn't like his character at all. There were really funny moments when his naivety of the wine, especially Pinot Noir, got a sharp witty insult from Miles. But personally, I didn't enjoy watching him fuck-up constantly at all. His character grained on me in the second half; it got to the point where I stopped enjoying the movie. That may be the way the movie is written, but I'd call it a flaw when a character gets irritating to the point of stopping the momentum of entertainment. However, Thomas Haden Church really gave an incredible performance... I just couldn't get past his shitty character.

Sandra Oh was a highlight for me.
I absolutely loved Sandra Oh, who played the fourth largest part in the film as Jack's lover. She's also a wine enthusiast, and a tough woman. There's one scene where she gets her heartbroken, and absolutely flips out! She blew me away, I felt soooo sorry for her character. I don't know what it is about Oh, but she never fails to impress me. Virginia Madsen gave a really good performance. It didn't quite come across as 'real' to me as the other characters, but it was enough to make me like her character. I adored her monologue on why she became a wine enthusiast. It was that very scene where my mouth started watering for a glass of wine! The romanticism, or 'fanaticism' they share for wine is what I liked most about this movie.

Sideways is a great movie, that is about 15 minutes too long, and 15 minutes too irritating for my liking. Even though it's a really good movie, I just didn't 'love' it. It's realism and 'human' characters was the only masterful aspect of the film in my opinion. Oh, and Paul Giamatti's performance! I think this movie is very overrated by critics, and slightly underrated by the common movie fan. It's 'great' but not 'fantastic'.


  1. Great review of an incredibly underrated film. I had the same "gee I should learn about wine" reaction after watching this film. It does drag on at times and has some characters who are on paper absolutely loathsome. Yet, it is executed with such a sincerity and earnestness, doubled by the performances of all involved that I have come to understand why it has received the critical cult status it has in recent years.

    1. It's only been a few weeks, but I already think a re-watch is in order for me. I have a feeling it's one of those movies that become more enjoyable with each viewing.