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Going In:

I’ve been a fan of Paul Giamatti since I saw him play the wise-cracking hostage of Samual L. Jackson in “The Negotiator.” Hopefully he won’t disappoint here.


Sideways isn’t a typical Hollywood film. A typical Hollywood film doesn’t create such real characters as those present here in Sideways. These characters are shown interacting, not in outlandish contrived scenarios, but in realistic everyday events. I don’t feel like I’ve seen a movie as much as I feel like I’ve witnessed a week of four people’s lives. Though fascinating, the characters presented in Sideways aren’t perfect. Their insecurities and obvious faults muster the endearing charm that this film wholly embodies.

Sideways tells the story of two men who embark on a trip through California’s wine country the week before one of the men is to be wed. The two friends, played by Thomas Haden Church (yes Lowell from Wings ) and Paul Giamatti, are complete opposites of one another. Paul Giamatti is Miles, an introverted, insecure, writer and wine connoisseur who wants to spend the week with his old college buddy Jack (Church), playing golf and tasting wine. Jack is a confident, gregarious, simpleton who, in wanting to make the most of his final “week of freedom,” is fixated on the idea of hooking up with as many women as he can.

Paul Giamatti has perfected the role of the born loser. The character he plays here is familiar to us because he always seems to play a similar role in other films. That’s not to say he doesn’t do a tremendous job here, because he does. I like to think that his roles leading up to Sideways were simply stepping stones that helped Giamatti to fully realize the part of Miles. Every insecurity, every bit of pain and anguish, every small joy, every hope and crushed dream come across perfectly in Giamatti’s flawless performance. From his deadpan delivery while depressed to his acerbic reactions to his hard headed friend, Giamatti won me over fully. It is an absolute disgrace that the Academy overlooked Giamatti in the best actor race. Clint Eastwood gave the best performance of his career but Giamatti still outshines him. Giamatti carried this film from start to finish and he deserves whatever praise is bestowed upon him.

Thomas Haden Church’s character Jack is an actor famous for commercial voiceovers and long forgotten soap operas. His past successes have basically turned him into a self-absorbed, self-serving egotist. He cares more about his potential sexual conquests than he does about the feelings of his best friend. Church does a good job with his role, but how hard is it really for an actor to play an actor? I enjoyed his performance and his career has no doubt been resuscitated, but the jury is still out on exactly how talented he is and how far he can go.

Both stars are big personalities that electrify at times, but it’s when they are onscreen together that this movie becomes something special. The humor generated from the interactions of these two friends is genuine and fun. None of the comedy is forced or fake. The off-beat hilarity of their unconventional relationship is absolutely refreshing.

Rounding out the cast are Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh who play the two love interests. Of the two, Virginia Madsen’s character is much more developed. She plays a waitress at one of Mile’s favorite restaurants and she, like Miles, is a fan of fine wine. Her portrayal of the multi-layered Maya is extremely solid. Sandra Oh’s character is far more one dimensional. She does a fine job with what she has, but one must wonder if she was hired because of her immense talent or because she’s married to the writer/director.

Director Alexander Payne’s insight into human nature is remarkable. The subtlety of his characters and story only prove to make the humor and character of this film that much more extraordinary. His film, Sideways, shows the strength of compassion, the strong ties of friendship, and the vigor of the human spirit. As complicated and perplexing as the art of tasting wine, the relationships in Sideways take on a character of their own – one that steals the show.

Rated R for featuring an ugly, old, naked guy running in the worst 6 seconds in the history of cinema

Sideways Review
One of the best dramas of the year, Sideways is also the funniest movie of the year, and quite possibly the best movie of the year.
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About The Author

By day I’m a producer/director at a video game development studio. By night, I’m… um… yeah, i’m usually just a more tired producer/director at a video game development studio. BUT, by weekend I’m a husband, father, and critic of all things.