Alexander Payne's Sideways Movie Review!


Alexander Payne's follow up to About Schmidt is another drama, filled with dark comedy, and class.

Paul Giamatti is awesome. This is the best performance I've seen this year by an actor, with Johnny Depp (Finding Neverland) in second, and Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine) in third (haven't seen Ray yet) and Thomas Haden Church was a revelation for me, second best Supporting Performance of the year after David Carradine (Kill Bill vol2).

Giamatti plays Miles Raymond, kind of a loser, divorced a few years ago but still with hopes of getting back together with his ex. He's also middle school English professor who just finished writing novel, a mix of fiction and personal situations, 'not easy to explain' he says, which nobody wants to publish because of that, they don't know how to market it.

Haden Church plays Jack, a former soap opera star now doing voice overs every now and then. He's getting married in a week, so Miles being his best man (they know each other from college), is taking him on a road trip through California to taste wine, play golf, and relax.

Jack plays along the wine tasting with Miles, but he wants more, he wants to get laid before the nuptials, and he also wants Miles to get laid, who hasn't been with anyone since the divorce. They meet Stephanie (Sandra Oh), a wild and very cool (she rides a motorcycle) single mom waitress, who's friends with Maya (Virginia Madsen), another waitress but from Miles favorite restaurant up there, with whom he has connection.

And so they go out, and while Jack and Stephanie do their business, Miles and Maya have one of the most wonderful and passionate conversations ever shown on screen. Turns out Maya is also a wine lover, and they talk and talk about it. She wants to know why Miles is so passionate about Pinot Noir (a kind of wine), to which he replies with a very detailed description about the grape's texture and its selection. Miles wants to know how she got into wine, and her answer goes about how wine is always different depending on the day you open the bottle, how it evolves. The conversation finishes and you can see the love in the air.

Jack is also falling in love with Stephanie, or so he says, because he's getting married in a few days, which Maya and Stephanie don't know until Miles talks with Maya about the rehearsal dinner by mistake, and Stephanie crushes Jack's face with her motorcycle helmet and so they're off.
Stephanie's rage turns Jack's nose bloody and broken, so they come out with a story (a car accident) to tell his wife to be about what happened to him.

Now comes the hilarious part of the movie, as Jack, now in his last day of freedom, engages in a one night stand with another waitress. She's married though, and her husband catches them which causes Jack to leave all his clothes in her house, including his wallet. Miles goes back to the girl's house to get the wallet, and what happens next is as funny as it gets. Also, Alexander Payne likes to show a full nude in his movies, so like Kathy Bates in About Schmidt, we get another one now, and is not any prettier. Not that Bates' was.

Best movie of year? Not for me, but I can see it getting more than a few nominations, specially in the acting categories and director, and possibly winning for Best Adapted Screenplay (Sideways is a novel by Rex Pickett). Still, it's an excellent movie, touching, romantic and hilarious, and I hope people get to see it, because like a great wine, it has class.

Review by Hakeem

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