Sideways

Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh, M C Gainey

Director: Alexander Payne

Miles (Paul Giamatti) is your average miserable divorcee whose only real passions left in life are his writing and more importantly his wine drinking. Jack (Thomas Haden Church) is a struggling actor still living off past glories. Miles decides to take Jack on a wine tasting trip to the Santa Ynez Valley as an extended version of a bachelor’s party before Jack’s forthcoming wedding. On this trip of self discovery they encounter many laughs, heartaches and plenty of good and bad wine.

Alexander Payne directs this character driven piece very well. He deftly mixes road movie, drama, a realistic love story and comedy into this highly engrossing end product. He allows all the main characters to contribute effectively to the story, making the film much more diverse and appealing to a wider cross-section of the audience.

Character driven pieces all eventually rely heavily on the performances of the actors which are fantastic here. Paul Giamatti is excellent as the main character Miles, a struggling writer and extremely disgruntled divorcee still missing his wife. He basically plays a honourable loser who despite all his misgivings is still likeable and to pull that off is no easy feat. Thomas Haden Church is perfect as an aging actor who has only his past to hold onto to, and as such in many ways is still very immature and insecure but tries to hide it under his masculine cool dude image.

In addition to this buddy foray are two talented actresses Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh who respectively play love interests for Miles and Jack. But it is Virginia Madsen who steals the show between the two actresses playing a waitress who is much more than meets the eye and actually likes Paul Giamatti’s insecure and emotionally damaged character just as he is, no more no less.

It clocks in at just over two hours but like a good bottle of wine that only gets better with time, you will not notice the minutes tick by. This is a great movie that should definitely make you ask yourself a few questions about love, friends and goals… and goes down like a fine glass of wine.

5 out of 6 stars

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