Sideways (Widescreen Edition) (2005)

A movie directed by Alexander Payne

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The original Road Trip; a descent into Wine Country

  • Dec 27, 2010
**** out of ****

Before I start things off, let me briefly discuss the art of illusion. You may go into "Sideways" thinking that it is a film about wine. However, the truth is that it is not a film about wine. Not strictly. It does INVOLVE wine, but never does it fixate solely upon it. Actually, "Sideways" never feels safe when it comes to focusing at one thing at a time, and that's why the end result is beautiful, moving, heartfelt, and hilarious. "Sideways" is Alexander Payne's critically acclaimed 2004 comedy, which has gone on to receive awards and mostly positive response(s) from movie-goers and critics alike. Perhaps this is because "Sideways" is relatable, funny, and often times quite touching. The combination of the three is ingenious, and "Sideways" is most definitely the best road-trip film ever made. Perhaps that is a lot to say, for I haven't seen every road trip movie out there. But I am going to say it anyways, and I don't suppose I will ever change my mind. I loved this movie. It's not often that a romantic buddy/comedy can entertain me throughout without taking a few unneeded detours. It's also not often that a director can truly master Paul Giamatti to the point where he's perfect, but here we are. "Sideways" is a great example of how to take a great cast and make them essentially better than they should be. It's also a solid example of how to make a better film out of a less-awesome concept. Road Trip movies are not my favorite, although then again, perhaps this film is not one of those. It is classified as one, but "Sideways" descends into something much, much more than the typical comedic romp. This film is not a romp, but it is a comedy. It's a comedy about finding yourself through adventure, and seeking the unknown that is laid out in front of you. The characters seem to realize soon enough that they have missed opportunities in their lives, and in their trip they aim to quench their thirst for outlandish fun. There's something strangely charming about "Sideways", and it's compellingly beautiful to the point where it no longer feels crass, vulgar, immature, or even flawed. Yes, I adored it. I adored it very much. I could recommend it to just about anyone, as long as you are open to the topic which it explores; purpose. But what is purpose? What is OUR purpose? Will we ever know this? The world may never know.

"Sideways" is about two oenophiles (Miles and Jack) who take a road trip through Wine Country. Miles is a single divorcee while Jack is getting married in a couple of days. The trip was devised by Miles, who hopes to send his buddy off in style. However, Jack is fixated on getting Miles to expand his potential romantic tendencies. He wants Miles to have fun and escape his long-term depression, although this is easier said than done. While in "Wine Country", Miles re-unites with a waitress at a local bar which he has known for quite a while. At the same time, Jack meets an attractive woman at a wine tasting and develops romantic interest in her. The two men hit it off with their respective mates, although the trouble is keeping the secret (Jack is indeed scheduled to get married). "Sideways" could have easily been unfunny, melodramatic, and overheated. Instead, it is a touching, humanistic dramedy that manages to be hilarious, heartfelt, and lovingly crafted. The story is told with more than enough complexity and successful descends into something that could be called "much more than the average road trip flick". It starts out simple, but you must consider the characters, for they are complex people with cleverly thought out backgrounds. This is a work of pure genius, and the experience is entertaining throughout. This film could have tried to bore me. It really could have. But it's just so darned interesting that I don't WANT to take my eyes off of it. Who knows: it may even go on to be considered one of the best films of the 2000's. Maybe it has already garnered such a status. Not that I care much. I care about my own opinion and the opinions of others, and I am none the less excited to hear what others thought of the film as a whole.

I love Paul Giamatti. Despite the fact that the guy has been in so much crap lately, I love him. When he's good, he's real good. He can even be great, like in "The Illusionist". And then he can be incredible, as in "Sideways". Giamatti plays a depressing but relatable guy. You learn to feel for him and his situation as time goes on, and he adds a significant amount of beauty to the production. But the thing I admire the most is his sense of humor. Giamatti seems to appreciate humor in his often times meek but insightful roles. The humor that seeps in the cracks helps to repair whatever damage might be done, since Giamatti often times ends up in either a bad movie or with bad co-stars. Giamatti, however, is not a bad actor. Not a bad actor at all. Thomas Haden Church gives one of his best performances as the unlikable snitch, Jack. When I say unlikable, I say it in a borderline-positive way. You LIKE Jack. You know you do. And yet he's an asshole, and don't we know it. Maybe that's why we choose to watch the film anyways, since we've got to live with it, even if that means living through a lot of unlikable but interesting characters. None the less, Church was endearing. Even Virginia Madsen was good. And that surprises me. That surprises me a lot. Sandra Oh wasn't so bad herself. So basically, the cast is awesome. I mean, Church and Giamatti went well together. The combination of the two completely opposite men was-to put it in words-awesome. Seldom is something like this as awesome as it is, but here we are.

The first thing you may notice about "Sideways" is the way it looks. The shading looks a bit off, and the film has a surprisingly over-lit camera style for the first part. However, this becomes less apparent as time goes on. The cinematography is none the less wonderful, and some of the shots are even incredible. The original soundtrack fits in well with the story and setting, and the characters seem to find their place as well. The humor, however, is absolutely key. While Giamatti's character expresses a lot of misery throughout, there's got to be some good laughs. And luckily enough, these laughs are not pre-determined and fake. They are not built in. They are meant for you to get, and when you do "get" them, you laugh a little bit to yourself. See: it's funny stuff. But "Sideways" is not all comedy; it is also part drama. The dramatic parts come in and out when they please, making this film feel more like a drunken, emotional roller-coaster than the straight-forward buddy road-trip adventure thing that it could have been. This might be one of the best, if not the best, road-trip movie yet, and that's all thanks to its charm and wit. It takes a lot to write a screen-play as intoxicating as this, and it takes a director such as Payne to shoot a film like this. What Payne ends up doing is creating a film which I love. This is one of 2004's best films; touching, hilarious, and sort of thoughtful, all at the same time. This is a rare gem due to that. It gets it value when you cut it.

Perhaps to some, "Sideways" will be a lot to swallow. It's advertised as a film about wine, although it is NOT about wine, men getting intoxicated, or infidelity. Perhaps it includes all of these things, but it is not strictly about them. I would recommend the film to most people since it's not bound to offend anyone, and it's perfectly harmless (for the most part). I know it is hard to call an R rated film "harmless", but that is what "Sideways" is. It has an impact on modern filmmaking, since it is in fact the best road trip film I have ever seen. There have been funny buddy comedies, and this is definitely one of them. These films are scarce, and it's better to search through the muck than not look at all. Perhaps "Sideways" inspired a new wave of road-trip comedies; none of which are half as calm, collected, and hilarious as this one. No, "Sideways" cannot be manipulated in style, humor, or genius. You can't do that with films such as this. If you aim to be a copycat, then please look elsewhere. True filmmakers create art while others create potboilers. "Sideways" is art in its own little way. If entertainment and craft could be called art, that is. And I'm pretty sure that both things are exactly that. Nevertheless, my point is this: "Sideways" is one of the best films out there. See it immediately, for it's already been praised enough and I don't suppose my late opinion counts for much. Watch it for whatever you want; spectacle, beauty, or even touching moments of pure sincerity. You could even watch it for pure, priceless sentimental value. You know: the kind you can't get anywhere else? That's the good stuff.

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December 30, 2010
Who doesn't like this film? Great job
December 31, 2010
Thanks. I know right?
December 27, 2010
what a great review! I really liked this one!
December 27, 2010
Thank you for reading. I didn't know if you'd be away for the Holidays and you wouldn't see this when I posted it, but I'm glad you did. Expect a floods-worth of Christmas-movie reviews...soon.
More Sideways (2005) reviews
review by . July 30, 2009
I've eaten at the Hitching Post, AJ Spurs, and Los Olivos cafe, drank at Kalyra and Firestone wineries, seen the ostrich farm, had breakfast at the Solvang restaurant, slept at the Days Inn with the windmill and been to more wine festivals in the Santa Ynez Valley than I can keep straight. And, believe it or not, I did all of that before the movie "Sideways" was released.      THE PREMIER: So when I went to the film's premier in Santa Barbara …
Quick Tip by . August 10, 2010
Just an awesome movie and a great introduction to Pinot Noir and the Santa Barbara wine scene, in general!
Quick Tip by . April 05, 2010
This movie became an instant "classic" and a must see for enophiles everywhere!
review by . August 16, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
Sideways is a buddy movie about two flawed buddies who go off on a wine-tasting adventure in lieu of a bachelor party. The story is more melancholic than comic as the buddies each bump up against their disappointments and failures.   There are lots of reasons to watch this film. The acting is masterful, Sandra Oh is delectable and the scenery is-for most of us-a delight.What sets this movie up for a special place in my heart is one great wine joke.    There's a scene …
review by . March 26, 2006
Tonight had been the first time I seen this film and the reason why it took me so long to see this film was because it wasn't high on my "Must See List." At the end of this film I quite enjoyed it and for many reasons. One may be that I will never see a commemorative Sideways bottle of wine or the Sideways happy meal at McDonald's. My point is that Sideways is a great movie and nothing more. It doesn't rely on blockbuster star power. It doesn't need flashy special effects or gimmicks. Paul Giammatti …
review by . October 16, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: See Review     Cons: See Review     The Bottom Line: My recommendation: grab your mate, a couple of glasses, a chilled bottle of wine, a block of Colby cheese and settle down in front of the tube and watch Sideways.     Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie''s plot. Movies that delve deeply into the muck of human emotion and drama usually do not interest me much; I tend to watch movies for escapism; in other …
review by . February 02, 2005
Pros: acting, script, direction, humor     Cons: too long, main characters unlikable     The Bottom Line: It's a good year for Sideways.     By the time I got around to seeing Sideways, it had garnered so much praise that I was bound to be disappointed. Alexander Payne’s script (adapted from the novel by Rex Pickett) and direction are excellent, but the film is about twenty minutes too long, and the characters, while entertaining, aren’t …
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Ryan J. Marshall ()
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie


WithSideways, Paul Giamatti (American Splendor,Storytelling) has become an unlikely but engaging romantic lead. Struggling novelist and wine connoisseur Miles (Giamatti) takes his best friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church,Wings) on a wine-tasting tour of California vineyards for a kind of extended bachelor party. Almost immediately, Jack's insatiable need to sow some wild oats before his marriage leads them in into double-dates with a rambunctious wine pourer (Sandra Oh,Under the Tuscan Sun) and a recently divorce waitress (Virginia Madsen,The Hot Spot)--and Miles discovers a little hope that he hasn't let himself feel in a long time.Sidewaysis a modest but finely tuned film; with gentle compassion, it explores the failures, struggles, and lowered expectations of mid-life. Giamatti makes regret and self-loathing sympathetic, almost sweet. From the director ofElectionandAbout Schmidt.--Bret Fetzer

On the DVD
Stars Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church have an absolute blast on their commentary track, gleefully ripping themselves, fawning over "La Madsen," and recalling "that bad fake wine we had to drink a lot of." Director Alexander Payne dismisses the seven deleted scenes (about 17 minutes total) as "meager offerings," and it's true that there are no gems. But even better than the scenes themselves might be Payne's text introductions, which offer insight into his editing process. Each scene is surrounded by brief bits from the ...
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Director: Alexander Payne
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: April 5, 2005
Runtime: 126 minutes
Studio: 20th Century Fox
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