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3.7 out of 5 stars
Sideways [DVD] [2004]
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 May 2012
Alexander Payne's 2004 film Sideways is by turns an hilarious comedy and poignant tragedy - not exactly wildly innovative or original, but certainly representative of the best of recent American independent (or perhaps, more meaningfully, low budget) filmmaking. Payne is, for me, a very interesting filmmaker, not necessarily that visually distinctive, but someone who nearly always has a slightly different (and consistently perceptive) take on a range of social issues, whether this be the politics in educational establishments, the effects of old age or family politics (as he addressed in his other films Election, About Schmidt and The Descendants).

Sideways showcases a brilliant performance from one of the US' finest crop of (relatively) newly established actors, Paul Giamatti. Giamatti delivers an outstanding performance as the downbeat loser and aspiring author, Miles, who, together with good friend, bit-part actor and womaniser, Jack (Thomas Haden Church) embark on a week's break touring the Californian vineyards before Jack's imminent wedding. Payne creates a beautifully laid-back atmosphere (accompanied by a suitably jazz-inflected soundtrack) as the pair wander between wine tastings and golf days amidst idyllic sunshine. Soon, however, frictions begin to develop between the friends as Miles becomes increasingly frustrated, and eventually despairing, at Jack's obsession with having a final fling before his marriage, a level of despair which is exacerbated for Miles following his drunken phone call to his recently divorced wife and less than positive news on the publication of his debut novel. Giamatti, whose characterisation as Miles is rather like a less-comedic Woody Allen persona, is superb as he gives vent to his emotions, firstly in his natural, more restrained fashion and then, when he reaches breaking point, in full-blown (drunken) manic fashion. Both Haden Church as the sex-obsessed Jack, who delivers a constant stream of inane, but hilarious, comments, and Virginia Madsen as Miles' developing love interest Maya also deliver excellent acting performances (for which they were nominated for Best Supporting Actor/Actress Oscars).

Giamatti's performance here is, for me, probably the best in a leading role that I have seen from him thus far, surpassing his other good turns in the films American Splendor and Win Win.

In conclusion, an extremely funny and poignant film, not groundbreaking, but certainly well worth seeing, and one of the most outstanding portrayals of male friendship (albeit arguably misplaced) that I have seen in recent years.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on 11 September 2006
I agree with another reviewer, you do have to have lived a little to fully appreciate this film. If you have ever experienced rocky highs and lows, then you may well find something here for you. You don't have to be male to appreciate the struggles and poignancy contained herein.

All the characters are simply superb. Anyone who has felt on an emotional rollercoaster for whatever reason, will be able to feel for, as well as laugh with, the character Miles, who is played so superbly here. There is plenty of pathos and laughter to be found here, and the ridiculousness of the human condition is laid bare without the usual Hollywood gloss. Virginia Madsen is also simply wonderful in this. I finished watching this with a real regret that I would see no more of these wonderfully flawed and rich characters.

There are many moments in this film that are funny. The humour is in a recognition of our own humanity at best and worst. To see Miles (Giamatti) act as a man on the edge is a joy to behold. His loss and rejection reflects the difficulties we all face, and I like that the film deals with this in a very `un-Hollywood' way. How one moment we can lose it and feel utter despair, but, how we can be coaxed out of this a few minutes later by a good friend to feel something encroaching on normality again. This is a film that I will gladly watch again and again.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on 13 April 2010
A simple premise - Jack is about to get married and his friend Miles takes him on a holiday of wine-tasting and golf. Except the holiday Jack has in mind has a slightly different emphasis. And it's the last thing Miles needs right now...

There are enough reviews on here without me adding to the details of the film, but I recommend you stick to reading the positive reviews. The negative ones seem to miss the point, going by some of their ridiculous criticisms...

'the characters are unlikeable'.
Actually, the characters are refreshingly human and believable. They have their good and bad sides, like all of us, and the actors draw out the humour in their flaws, and even sympathy where appropriate. Especially Paul Giametti as the intellectual wine-expert, Miles, who was clearly once a popular, amusing guy until the collapse of his marriage sent him into a tailspin of uncontrollable alcohol binges. Anyone who dismisses the film because the characters are 'dislikable' I suggest either has a mighty opinion of themselves, or, more likely, sees something of themselves in the characters.

'It isn't funny'
We don't all have the same sense of humour do we? There isn't a comedy or comedian on earth that everyone likes. I found Sideways funny, but the comedy is consistently and delightfully subtle. It emerges from the characters, it's sprinkled throughout the dialogue and it's brought beautifully to life by the leads' performances. Yes, it probably goes over the head of anyone looking for easy laughs without paying much attention and those that dislike dialogue-driven films. What I will say is that I find it funnier with each repeated viewing (and I've watched it several times now!).

'It's boring'
The film requires a modicum of patience and attention. If you can't be bothered to give it that then I would suggest that it is YOU who is boring.

The script is extraordinarily clever. It deservedly won an oscar and so too should have Giametti. His partnership with the oscar-nominated Haden-Church as the infantile actor, Jack, is a joy to watch unfold.

As I said, whether you find it funny depends on your sense of humour, but if you watch it with your brain out of gear and 'don't get it' then the fault is with you and not the film.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on 16 May 2005
Miles has decided to take Jack on a bachelor road trip for some hedonistic fun before he eventually gets married a week later. Miles's idea was for the two of them to enjoy Jack's last few days of freedom together in wine country and perhaps play some golf but Jack has other ideas.
to go into anymore detail would be to ruin the whole experience for you, so i'll stop now.
this film reminded me so much of classic '70's movies particularly those of Hal Ashby such as Harold and Maude and The Last Detail. were so much more emphasis is placed on characters rather than plot, which in my mind almost always makes for a more interesting experience. unfortunately some people will and have disagreed...their loss. Miles and Jack are very interesting characters, Miles is particularly prickly but Giamatti's excellent performance manages to get us to care and love the character neverthless, he is if you like the new Bill Murray playing the sort of depressed, world weary characters directors like Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola have excelled in creating for Murray. how he never recieved an academy nod is beyond me. Jack is lovable straight away with his witty fun loving antics but his infidelity makes you question his behaviour. Thomas Haden Church's performance is equal to that of Giamatti's and he definately deserved an Oscar over Morgan Freeman who was playing the same stereotypical role of reliable sidekick that he always does in the majority of his films, but anyway.
the supporting cast is equally good as well with, particularly Virginia Madsen.
the direction is understated and there are some incredibly hilarious, poignant and sad moments particularly for Miles as he struggles to accept the rejection he sees everywhere. The ending was particularly brave and allows the characters to linger on after you have watched the film and wonder "what are they doing now" perhaps the greatest compliment i could pay to a film so interested and focused with its characters.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 27 July 2009
A trully marvellous film that I watched by accident on a plane to the States. I love this film and can watch it repeatedly. Mid-life crisis meets road-movie meets stag weekend, all with the sophisticated backdrop of a wine-tasting trip. It is quite hilarious in parts but also dry as a bone. The groom to be having to make up an excuse for his broken nose decides his best man's car must show signs of a road accident, the result sums up the tragic and comic nature of thyis film. Watch it.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on 10 September 2006
I nearly switched this film off after the first hour,but I was glad that I stayed with it. This is a film of two halves, the first is wrapped up with the main charactors discussing types of wine or grapes which was semi educational but a little tedious, but the second half became really interesting. If you are over forty, you will enjoy this film, because like the charactors you will have suffered the ups and downs that life throws at you.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Miles Raymond: "This week is not about me. It is about you. I'm gonna show you a good time. We're gonna drink a lot of good wine. We're gonna play some golf. We're gonna eat some great food and enjoy the scenery and we are going to send you off in style, mon frere."
Jack: "And get your bone smooched".

Sideways is a low-budget, Sunday afternoon movie that will put a smile on your face. The story is simple: wine-loving wannabe writer Miles (Paul Giamatti) is taking failed actor Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a week-long tour of California's wine region to celebrate his old friend's upcoming marriage. But while Miles wants to relax, drink and play golf, Jack is determined to get laid one last time before settling down. Their adventures make for a charming, moving comedy about friendship, love and regret.

"You need to get your joint worked on Miles," says Jack, showing just how different these two characters are: the crass actor and the sensitive writer, linked by being roommates at college, but by little else these days. Viewers will probably identify with one or the other, but the beauty of the script is that these are rounded, believable people with recognisable failings and strengths - one is not superior than the other.

So, while Jack is a bit dim, crude, and thinks largely with his crotch, he's also enthusiastic, loyal and embraces life. And while Miles is funny, clever, and knowledgeable, he is also timid, drink-dependent, and crippled by insecurity ("I'm so insignificant I can't even kill myself...").

Giamatti is a fine actor, but the revelation here is Haden Church, he's gifted terrific lines by writer/director Alexander Payne, but gives his part great heart too. Because for all the laughs, there's real soul and emotion here; a sparkling blend that slips down a treat.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 30 March 2008
The sheer idea of this film is what attracted me to view it. Paul Giamatti's character Miles goes on holiday with his best friend to get away from problems at home and it's a finding yourself type of holiday as the pair encounter various problems and opportunities in California's wine country.

I'm personally not a big wine taster but found the film very deep on the topic and was interested by the facts about different drinks that were encoded. The use of wine is a very symbolic object in this Oscar winning film, and is great as a little sub story to the other topics being covered.

The plot is consistent, intriguing, deep, humorous and different throughout which makes it one of the best comedy dramas of recent times with its use of these qualities and issues, which include loyalty, friendship, marriage and commitment.

These issues are put forward by a superb cast, making true personalities out of their characters, none more so than Giamatti (Cinderella man) whose negative character is stunning to watch as he deals with many issues regarding his personal life. And when things are appearing to go from bad to worse, it is interesting to see how he deals with life and more so himself.

Church's character Jack is almost the complete opposite of Miles, who is more positive and is trying to make the most out of his life and we can see opposites working, showing the differences in personality, an important point to the film.

The settings are marvellous, though some maybe criticized for being conventional, I thought they were great, especially the use of the bar and restaurant.

Despite its strong passionate issues, it's a relaxing and enjoyable watch, with brilliance from all the cast.

The direction is absolute brilliance, particularly one shot where the two central protagonists are sitting on a bench, a sensational drama.

9/10
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
With a Golden Globe Award in hand and an Academy Award nomination for Best Picture, "Sideways" got to tout itself as the Best Comedy of 2004. Having endured a seemingly endless string of wretched and mostly juvenile comedies, I am happy to report I have no problem with the film claiming that honor. Besides, it is nice to be able to offer up something other than "Shaun of the Dead" when talking about the funniest film from last year.
When I saw this movie in the theater the audience laughed out loud more often at "Sideways" than any film I have seen since "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," which strikes me as strange only because they seemed to be up on the subtle nuances of humor regarding wine tasting, a lot of which was lost on me (but I laughed at "The Grapes of Wrath" being on the television, so there). The screenplay by director Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor is from the novel by Rex Pickett and sets up a rather simple situation. Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti, who at least deserved an Oscar nomination) is a 8th grade English teacher who has been divorced for two years, during which time he has written a 750-page novel. He is also knows his wines and can get more out of sniffing a glass of Pinot than most of us. When talking about wine Miles is at his best, but even he cannot talk about the fruit of the vine forever.
Jack (Thomas Haden Church) is Miles' best and perhaps only friend. The two met when they shared a dorm room at San Diego State as freshmen. Now Jack is an actor, once on a soap but now reduced to doing voice work, and happens to be getting married in a week. In lieu of a bachelor's party, Mile and Jack are going to drive into the Valley to indulge in wine tasting and the playing of golf. But then Jack decides that Miles needs to know the love of a good woman (although he would never put it that eloquently). The problem is that Jack sees the utter futility of such an endeavor, but rather that while Jack thinks this would be a good thing for Miles, he ends up deciding it would be an even better thing for Jack.
Settled into a motel in the Valley, Jack picks up that Maya (Virginia Madsen), a waitress at The Hitching Post, likes Miles. He then picks Stephanie (Sandra Oh), who pours samples of wine at one of the vineyards, as the recipient of his last fling before marriage. After trying to prod Miles to action, Jack proceeds with his endeavor, leaving Miles to his own inadequate devices. What makes things worse is that Miles is finding he has some things in common with Maya. The question is whether there is enough wine in the world to allow Miles to actually act on his feelings.
Do not be surprised if you feel like you have taken a short course in wine tasting as a result for this movie. The fact that you end up understanding exactly why Miles likes the Pinot grape best is a rather startling conclusion. This insight comes during the movie's big love scene, which takes place when Miles and Maya are sitting around discussing wine. I have long realized that the best love scenes are never about sex (e.g., "Shall We Dance" in "The King and I") and that the best way of saying "I love you" never involves those exactly words (as evidenced in movie history from "Here's looking at you kid" to "You had me at hello"). Madsen can thank that scene for her Oscar nomination (and Giamatti for setting her up for her big moment).
Why "Sideways" stands out from the vast majority of the comedy films of 2004 is that it is grounded in the humanity of these two friends, which means it embraces their foibles. These women are too good for these two guys, especially given the lies that they are spinning, but there is a hope that at least Miles can rise above the occasion. Besides, no matter how many problems Jack creates, there is no doubt that he supports Miles. Meanwhile, there is another vineyard to visit and more bottles for Miles to test with his discriminating palette. But while life is playing out its grim joke on Miles, we never lose our affection for him. Like Jack and Maya, we see the character in the best light.
Final Note: In the credits we are told that, "No California Oaks were harmed in the making of this motion picture." This smacks of smart lawyerspeak to me and I have to wonder if a tree was harmed but it was a different type of oak than a California Oak, it was not a California oak, or it was an oak but it was not in California. Once the truth of this matter comes out I suspect "Sideways" will be even more of a long shot for the Oscar than it is today.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 4 May 2010
I really didn't care at all for the director's previous films. He was the sort of person who had absolutely no problem having unnecessary boring sections in his films. His interests, preoccupations and way of filming and presenting things were not for me. So I've always avoided Sideways and dismissed it as a boring film with a slim "story" inserted somewhere amongst two men drinking and talking about wine. The sort of thing that would get very tiresome after fifteen minutes.

I was reading a book about the new 90s/00s film directors called The Sundance Kids. It probably spent more pages talking about Sideways than it did any other film. My curiosity was piqued so I decided to watch the first ten minutes of my Dad's copy to see if it's any good. And it was. It was very good. It's far superior to his previous films.

The film is much more incident packed than I expected and the pace never drags. It has a definite sense of forward momentum at all times so we never get trapped for long stretches with nothing happening.

I fully recommend taking a chance on it even if you're not convinced by the look of it. The film it most resembles is Withnail and I, so if you like that film you should love this.
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