'Sideways' ***** (Movie Review) 022305


The Work = *****
'Sideways' is simply put a must see. Well, it is a must see if you are the type that doesn’t mind a black comedy. Roger Ebert, in his review, compared the film to the Coen brother’s 'Fargo' and in doing so he hit the nail on the head, because chances are, if you liked that film you will like this one.

I should say this film contains no homicides but the comedy is similar and so is the pacing. The difference is this film is a more of a social drama whereas 'Fargo' was more of a crime drama. 'Sideways' follows two friends on a road trip. Miles, is acting as the host for the outing. He is played by the wonderful and terribly underrated Paul Giamatti. His long time friend Jack, is played by the also underrated Thomas Haden Church.

The trip is supposed to be an extended bachelor party of sorts for the Jack. The plan? Travel through California wine country sampling the vino and seeing the sites. Maybe they will even take in some golf too. Jack soon reveals he has other plans and what follows is a dark, funny, comedy. The movie shows characters that are in a transition from one section of their lives to another.

I won’t go into specifics because the less you know the more you will enjoy. The four principle actors, Giamtti, Church, Sandra Oh, and Virginia Madsen all give wonderful performances. They keep the film moving and interesting with their delivery. Of course they are helped by the great writing by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor.

Alexander Payne is a writer / director whose work I am going to go back and look at. I remember enjoying a film he did called 'Citizen Ruth' but have not seen his more recent 'About Shmitt' or his film 'Election'. I saw him give an introduction on the 'La Dolce Vita' DVD and I thought he came off a bit awkward as he was haltingly reading off some cue cards. I’m not faulting him for it, no one said he had to be a great public speaker but it did come to mind after I had watched sideways because there was a similarity that I saw between 'La Dolce Vita' and 'Sideways'.

I can’t quite put my finger on it but there was something in 'Sideways' that seemed a little bit detached from the main characters. It may be the format, like 'La Dolce Vita', 'Sideways' is presented in sections. In 'Sideways' it is sectioned off by days, in 'La Dolce Vita' it was by blocks of time over the span of one night. I am not sure if that was what did it or if it was something else but there was, for lack of a better description, a slight feeling that the characters were shown “at an arms length.”

This distancing is the only gripe that I had with the film and it is a very, very minor one. It’s entirely possible that it could just have been my mood when I saw it. I am itching to see this film again and would recommend anyone who has an interest to check it out. All I have to say is there darn well better be some great features on the DVD release of this film because it sure deserves it.

A Must See.


'Sideways' Links:

Official Website

Roger Ebert Review


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