Review by Michael Jacobson
Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh
Director: Alexander Payne
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Features: See Review
Length: 127 Minutes
Release Date: April 5, 2005
me, sir? My friend was the one
balling your wife a couple of hours ago. Really
sorry. He seems to have left his
all of 2004's Best Picture Oscar nominees, Sideways is easily the most
watchable. I came to that
conclusion when, maybe less than an hour after watching the DVD (and having seen
the picture theatrically), I popped it in and viewed it straight through a
second time. No real reason, other
than I wanted to hang out amongst those characters again.
suppose it's easier for the audience to identify with a pair like Miles (Giamatti)
and Jack (Church) than with an eccentric billionaire, a turn of the century
British playwright, a female boxer, or a blind musical genius.
We watch their stories to experience other worlds.
Sideways we watch to turn the camera on ourselves.
couldn't really describe the characters as lovable, but somehow, they are.
Miles is the ego; an introspective thinker who plans everything out and
is too cautious by half. Jack is all id; living life recklessly from one moment to the
next without regard to consequence or even regard for what his next move might
be. They are unlikely friends, but
together they add up to create what makes us all human.
film is both a hysterical comedy and a frequently moving exploration of the
human condition in all its wonderful, crazy expressions of love, lust,
friendship, insecurity, lofty dreams and dashed hopes.
We laugh at Miles and Jack because they represent the errant parts of our
lives, and we embrace them with sober understanding for exactly the same reason.
story takes place on a one week bachelor's trip through California's wine
country, where Miles, an aspiring writer and full time English teacher is taking
Jack, a roguish actor, for one last week of freedom before he marries.
Miles' idea: play some golf,
sample some good wines, eat some great food, and show Jack a little bit about
the finer things. Jack's idea: get laid one last time before putting on the ball and chain.
two women: Maya (Madsen), a
beautiful waitress whom Miles has had a crush on for years, and her friend
Stephanie (Oh), a sexy pour girl in a winery.
To make matters more interesting, Jack decides he's not just looking out
for himself...he wants his best friend to get a little satisfaction to help put
his mind off of his last chance at getting his novel published, and to maybe
become a complete person for the first time since his painful divorce.
men's behavior is fascinating to analyze. Jack
doesn't act like a man about to marry...his sexual passion for Stephanie makes
him talk about crazy things like canceling the wedding and moving out into wine
country to start a new business. Miles looks at Maya as though maybe, just maybe he's found
the perfect woman, but thinks far too little of himself to fully pursue it.
scene I think everyone tends to remember most is Miles and Maya having a simple
conversation about wine. When Miles
talks about pinot, we realize he's really talking about himself and his needs
and fears. We can actually see the
moment when Maya falls in love with him. Her
counterpoint about how she got into wines in the first place is possibly the
most seductive scene I've ever witnessed in a movie that didn't involve
nakedness, touching or a bed.
all, it's a momentary illusion of happiness and fulfillment.
I won't delve into the details, but suffice to say, Jack can't keep his
charade up forever. And Miles, though honest and sincere in his affections toward
Maya, is of course bound to the deception.
of the movie's dirty little secrets about Miles that he seems blissfully unaware
of is that he's an alcoholic. He
moves under the guise of a wine connoisseur, but he spends a little too much of
his nights in a haze. Nobody in the
movie judges him, nor he himself, but we marvel at how he samples a delightful
wine and describes it with succulent detail, but later leaves the bar loaded,
having 'sampled' the whole bottle. Or
a key scene of disappointment where he cries out "I need a drink!" and
goes about getting it in a most unusual way.
Giamatti got famously slighted by Oscar while many thought his was the best
performance of the year. Sad that
there were at least six outstanding male lead performances and only five slots
for nominations. But the more I
watch this movie, the more I feel it was a great injustice. No disrespect for Johnny Depp, but I think I would have given
his nod to Giamatti, who created a funny, completely human and forever memorable
character with Miles. There are
instances when you can just see on his face that he's taken a moment to look
inwards and is so disappointed with what he sees that he can barely function.
It's essentially a brilliant piece of dramatic acting peppered with
impeccable comic timing.
also been a huge fan of Thomas Haden Church for years, and though he managed to
snag a Supporting Actor nomination, I have to say I feel he got slighted as
well. Morgan Freeman is a terrific,
deserving actor, but it took some chops for Church to bring likeability to such
a shallow and self serving character. Virginia
Madsen might have also been the most deserving nominee...just watch her speech
about wines and tell me if you saw anything better from a supporting actress
movie also earned nominations for Best Picture and Best Director for the uncanny
Alexander Payne, who at least took home a statuette for Adapted Screenplay with
co-writer Jim Taylor, and I doubt any could argue it wasn't merited.
Behind the humor and heartaches is a simple, eloquent truth that we can
all relate to.
the film's best legacy in the end will be that we continue to think about these
characters long after the credits have rolled.
Since first seeing it, I've often wondered what became of Miles, Jack,
Maya and Stephanie long after they rolled out of their magical week and back
into reality. The movie's best
indication of an open door is ironically a closed one...the last thing we see.
is a mostly stunning anamorphic transfer from Fox with a few noticeable flaws.
By and large, the sunny treks through the vineyards of California are
decidedly gorgeous, as are the many colorful interiors of restaurants and
wineries. Only a few darker scenes exhibit some textural grain and a
bit of soft haziness, but it's barely worth a mention.
5.1 audio is a solid effort even though the film mostly concentrates on the
spoken words. Bits of ambience in
scenes with crowds or sounds of nature in the big outdoors are enough to satisfy
the listener. But it's the quiet
moments that are the most striking, as hushed words usually create the most
best extra is a delightful commentary track by Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden
Church. The two actors have a great
time reliving their memories of making the film, and often try to one-up another
with vocabulary words. Quite
is a VERY short promotional featurette, a trailer, and 7 deleted scenes with a
text introduction by Alexander Payne.