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Sideways (Widescreen Edition) (2005)

A movie directed by Alexander Payne

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A Crash Course in California Wine Making

  • Oct 16, 2005
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 words I want to be entertained, I don’t want to have to think too much about what I am watching. Hey, I’m a man and I choose my intellectual stimulation carefully and in measured doses, thank you. But occasionally, just occasionally I will sit through a movie that seeks to tell a purely human story, even if it’s drawn out and at times overly simplistic and formulaic.

Sideways was the breakout Independent film of 2004, a film that saw character actor Paul Giamatti play the leading man. And it is a film that vastly inflated the flagging career of Virginia Madsen, and furthered the career of Sandra Oh, who looks softer and more beautiful in this film than I have ever seen her.

The Story

Directed by Alexander Payne (Sandra Oh’s estranged husband), the plot of Sideways is simple enough: middle-aged “B” actor Jack portrayed by Thomas Hayden Church (3000 Miles to Graceland, Spanglish) is engaged to be married in a week to Christine, a woman with a wealthy pedigree. Jack’s college roommate and depressed divorced friend, and wine connoisseur Miles portrayed by Paul Giamtti (Deconstructing Harry, The Truman Show, Saving Private Ryan) is taking him on a week long trip through California’s wine country to spend so “guy” time together before the “I Do’s.”

But, while Miles is looking forward to a week of wine tasting up and down the San Fernando Valley, Jack is looking to sow his wild oats one last time before getting hitched. Miles is a known quantity in the “Valley” having made many a trip there with his ex-wife Victoria. At a restaurant Miles frequents we meet Maya portrayed by Virginia Madsen (Dune, The Hot Spot, Ghosts of Mississippi), a waitress who has an eye on Miles, and he on her.

And Jack quickly (too quickly) finds what he is after in the form of wine maiden Stephanie portrayed by Sandra Oh (Full Frontal, Big Fat Liar, Under The Tuscan Sun). It just so happens, Stephanie knows Maya, and the four come together for dinner and the fun begins; quickly for Jack and Stephanie, not so quickly for Miles and Maya. More of the plot I will not discuss; needless to say it’s a wild ride with not a view twists and turns thrown in to hold our attention, and add a few laughs to the mix.

My Observations

All of the principles do a superb job on this film; but after viewing it I don’t see what all the fuss was about; Sideways could just as easily have been a television movie of the week. I have to admit though that I did find myself drawn in by all the talk of wine, a subject I am woefully ignorant of. At the end of the film I felt decidedly less cosmopolitan and in need of an education on wine, which probably goes a long way in explaining the vastly increased interest American showed in California wines after Sideways hit theaters. And I love the shot a California wine country with it lush vineyards and rolling hills. If it were not for the fact that California with its clueless celebrity Governor, high taxes, high cost of living, and higher housing costs, is such an undesirable place to live right now, I would pack my bags tomorrow and move to the Valley.

In the end Sideways was an enjoyable film and unlike most ending, I found this one very agreeable indeed. While I am glad I did not spend $8.50 to see the movie in theatrical release, watching it on HBO or DVD on a Saturday night is right up my alley, and I have to admit much more relaxing.

Sideways had it moments of deep intellectual reflection interspersed with commonplace human shallowness which made the movie all the more enjoyable, but not earth shatteringly so. My recommendation: grab your mate, a couple of glasses, a chilled bottle of wine (whatever vintage), a block of Colby cheese and settle down in front of the tube and watch Sideways, which after all is said and done is a satisfying movie.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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More Sideways (2005) reviews
review by . December 27, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
**** 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. …
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!
review by . January 02, 2009
posted in Movie Hype
How to Drink Wine the Pretentious Way
Director Alexander Payne (Election and About Schmidt) creates a mature, masterfully crafted comedy with his film Sideways. The film is rich in characterization and features stunning performances by its talented cast. When the film was released in 2004, it garnered critical praise and numerous award nominations. But all the hype aside, Sideways is a surprisingly engaging and intelligent comedy about two self-centered men, who learn that they need to grow up.          …
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
The actors all did a great job in this movie, but it was hard for me to totally get into since I'm not into wine. However, the film was entertaining.
review by . July 12, 2009
When Sideways first came out in 2004, I was still in High School and I didn't think I would have an appreciation for this kind of movie even though I had seen many thought provoking and deep films already.  The idea to watch Sideways now stemmed from having our Wine tasting party (which actually, was never watched then, and was probably a good thing now that I think about it).  Because ya know, here we thought that Sideways was a film that focused around a bunch of wine snobs...I mean …
review by . January 03, 2010
Teacher and would-be writer Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes his actor pal Jack (Thomas Hayden Church) on a trip to the California wine country to celebrate Jack's impending marriage.  Miles is a wine lover and wants to educate Jack on the best wines, while Jack just wants to sew his last wild oats.      This is a dramedy about ordinary people dealing with frustration, failure, and loneliness.  Giamatti plays the sad-sack loser well, but his character is weak and unremarkable …
Quick Tip by . April 05, 2010
This movie became an instant "classic" and a must see for enophiles everywhere!
Quick Tip by . December 19, 2009
Sideways would be insufferable were it not for the great performances of the two leads, who make it an affable trifle of a movie.
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 …
About the reviewer
Vincent Martin ()
Ranked #188
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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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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