A/V Room









Sideways - Preview & US reaction

Preview by: Jack Foley

EARLY Oscar buzz is surrounding Sideways, the new film from About Schmidt director, Alexander Payne, starring American Splendor's Paul Giamatti.

The film stars Giamatti as Miles, a failed novelist and divorcee, who is about to become best man at his best friend's marriage.

Miles resolves to go on a road trip with Jack (Thomas Haden Church), and heads up to California's wine region for a journey of self-discovery.

Needless to say, the ensuing trip finds the two men getting into trouble with wine and women, before inevitably reaching some profound conclusions about their pre-midlife crisis.

Empire magazine, in its winter preview of the movie, wrote that 'like a fine wine, Alexander Payne appears to be improving with age', while colleagues who have seen the film have already hailed it as a better film than the Oscar-nominated About Schmidt (starring Jack Nicholson).

Payne said much of the inspiration for the film came from watching Sofia Coppola's Lost in Translation, which, according to producer, Michael London, had him hoping that audiences would come out of Sideways feeling the same way - 'like you've been on a trip with people that you loved'.

Giamatti has already been tipped as a possible Oscar nominee for his compelling, heartfelt turn, while the film also represents a strong role for co-star Virginia Madsen.

The film has already gone down a storm in America, where it became one of the best-reviewed movies of the year (see opposite).




US reaction

American critics seemed to be falling over themselves to heap praise on Sideways - with a similar reaction expected from UK critics when it opens in January 2005.

Leading the fanfare is Variety, which described it, simply, as 'a wonderful film, so accomplished that it looks effortless'.

Entertainment Weekly awarded it a maximum straight A and hailed it to be 'gloriously wise and warm'.

While the Detroit News raved: "Sideways is one of those films that’s a bit too good to review: It strikes a unique tone, blends a bit of tall-tale fun with everyday life, and pretty much hits every note in your psyche."

The New York Post, meanwhile, wrote that 'it's a joy to watch comedy unfold so naturally, the laughs gently teased out from our growing knowledge of the characters, their imperfections, doubts and, yes, emotional pain'.

And the Hollywood Reporter noted that 'if film critics employed a 0 to 100 rating scale such as some wine critics do, then Sideways would rate about a 98'.

Strong, too, was the San Francisco Chronicle, which opined that 'with four fine films under his belt, Payne should be regarded as an American treasure'.

And Globe and Mail noted that 'although lacking the complexities of Election - still Payne's best work - the picture does exude an intelligent craftsmanship that's hard to resist'.

The Boston Globe wrote that 'I thus heartily recommend the movie to all men between the ages of 30 and 55 - if they can take it. Sideways offers few consolations besides the bitter, healing laughter of the morning after'.

And Premiere magazine opined: "Every performance here is wonderful, and the movie abounds in moments so true as to be cringe-worthy."

But the final word goes to the Chicago Sun-Times, which concluded: "At the end of the movie we feel like seeing it again."

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