A/V Room









Sideways (15)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

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 nonchalant ease).

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.


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