Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentaries by Paul Giamatti and
Thomas Haden Church. Behind the scenes featurette. Deleted scenes.
Easter eggs. Inside Look: Kingdom Of Heaven.
RATHER like the finest of wines, Sideways, the latest film from
About Schmidt director, Alexander
Payne, is one that leaves a terrific taste in the mouth if it
is given the proper time to breathe.
It's a simple tale that takes an established format - the road
movie - and turns it into a magical experience that stays with
you far longer than most members of its genre.
The people that inhabit it aren't particularly showy, and their
exploits may seem dull when compared to some journeys of self-discovery,
but Payne's movie (based on the novel by Rex Pickett) has a staying
power that really ought to mark him out as one of America's finest
film-makers of the moment.
Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church star as Miles and Jack,
two college buddies, who resolve to spend a week touring the Californian
wine region and playing golf before the latter gets married.
For Miles, the trip represents an opportunity to get away from
his mundane existence, given that he is still struggling to come
to terms with divorce and has yet to realise his writing ambitions.
But for Jack, it's the chance to sow his wild oats one last time;
to fulfil the desires he may never be allowed to indulge once
married, and to say farewell to bachelorhood in style.
As a result, he meets and courts
Sandra Oh's spiky single mother, while at the same time introducing
Miles to Virginia Madsen's more sensitive waitress, Maya, who
shares his passion for wine, and whom Miles has quietly had his
eye on for some time.
The ensuing couple of hours is a richly absorbing character study
for everyone involved - one that indulges in simple pleasures
and generates warm laughs.
Giamatti is superb as the mixed-up Miles, effortlessly conveying
the quiet desperation of his hopeless character, and forming a
believable and sincere relationship with Maya, that also allows
Madsen to shine (mixing sweetness with melancholy with damn-near
While Haden Church provides the film with its biggest laughs
as the fool-hardy Jack - a selfish but loveable rogue, who frequently
places Miles in all manner of embarrassing situations in order
to please himself.
Their friendship stems from past history rather than present
actions and although they have grown apart, their loyalty is unwavering
and quietly affecting - hence viewers can easily identify with
them, while nodding along with familiarity.
Yet it is one of many facets to Payne's movie that revels in
its ability to appeal subtly while still delivering a knockout
emotional punch (a scene, late on, at Jack's wedding, provides
Giamatti with a silent showcase he exploits just as effectively
as Nicole Kidman in Birth).
It comes as little surprise to find that Sideways has been showered
with accolades and nominations given the giddy pleasure it provides.
It is an intoxicating experience that only looks set to mature
well with age.