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
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
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
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).
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
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