Sideways (2004) Directed by Alexander Payne. With Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh.
Adapted from Rex Pickett’s 2004 novel of the same name, Alexander Payne’s road movie to the Californian wine country is a two hour breath of fresh air, boasting two hilarious central performances from Paul Giamatti (Miles) and Thomas Haden Church (Jack) as two old college buddies, on a week-long wine tasting tour, ahead of Jack’s imminent wedding.
Director Payne specified to his cinematographer, Phedon Papamichael, that he wanted a 1970’s tone in the photography, which is especially evident during some of the more romantic elements of the film, such as sunset picnics in a field under a tree. The real joy though, comes from the bickering relationship between Miles and Jack. Giamatti and Haden Church are an absolute hoot, playing the comedy and drama of the Academy Award winning script to its maximum potential. It’s classic stuff, two guys who knew each other when they were young, but whose lives have taken entirely different paths; reunited in the present with very different agendas.
Such is the warmth and appeal of Sideways, that it plays effectively as an advert for those interested in holidaying at the Californian wine vineyards. One monologue on her love of wine by Virginia Madsen’s Mya, is so hypnotic in its delivery and description, that it becomes truly transcendent for a few beautiful moments. In truth, Sideways is topped-up with brilliant observations and little fascinations. Miles is a complete snob, and much humour is mined from that, especially weighing in Jack’s complete lack of appreciation for the finer things.
My enjoyment of Sideways was such, that I could go on about it for another twenty-some paragraphs (I won’t). It’s about friendship and the imperfections and fragility of human beings, from which, good things can come. Its also a road movie, and all the best road movie’s are about two journeys, the physical miles covered, and the way in which the journey changes it’s characters, forever. With writing this strong, and performances equally on par, Sideways proves a potent blend. I don’t say it about many films, but it is a film that I genuinely love. 5/5