Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Sideways A Slanted Hit

I saw Sideways (Yahoo! link) on Saturday night with a friend and her boyfriend. It stars Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, and Sandra Oh. Directed and written (screenplay) by Alexander Payne, with Rex Pickett as the one who wrote the novel.

IMDB Plot Summary:
Miles Faymond (Paul Giamatti), a failed writer who teaches junior high school english takes his best friend, former hot actor Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a weeklong drive up to 'wine country' in California. There they explore the nature of their failures and question their relationships. Jack, about to get married, has an affair and wonders whether he should call it off. Miles, recently divorced, questions whether or not he made the right choice.
Before I begin, please note that I missed the first 10-15 minutes of the movie as we were running late. Even so, I caught the film from the point where the trip begins so I don't feel as though I missed much, if at all anything important.

I thoroughly enjoyed this film. It's rather dark at times but balanced overall by the entirety of the story. It's a movie about wine, women and men, in that order. Miles is a huge wine buff and the movie is liberally sprinkled (if not downright soaked through and through) with a lot of wine information and tidbits. Miles' wine fanaticism also gives some focus for the relationship between him and Maya (Virginia Madsen) and a nice tie for the whole movie. It also provides some of the oomph behind the bigger, more emotional scenes.

The characters are very nicely done and by the end of the movie you feel as if you have a good handle on who they are, where they are and where they want to go. The transition into that knowledge is the heart of the film, as the characters learn about themselves and reconcile their conflicting desires. The two main characters are definitely not pure or simple, but rather flawed and deep. Even Jack, the most superficial of the 4 main characters, has some hidden depths and worries behind his decisions, notwithstanding his actions.

As for the character flaws, and I read this bit elsewhere (I forget where) so it's not of my own genesis, the movie puts the 2 main characters' flaws out there and doesn't do too much with them. At one point (and this is not a spoiler at all), Miles steals money from his mother. Nothing is done with that, it's just there to show you that although he's loyal and intelligent, he's not perfect by any means. That in particular just sits there. Not a bad thing and certainly not a problem if that is my only complaint, but I agree with the review I read that some of the flaws are there to be there, not to be explored or considered so much.

You can tell this is a somewhat deep movie. It tackles a lot of character development very well. You're not going to be overwhelmed by it and it's all rather easily understood at the time, though I will probably watch it again and again as subsequent viewings will probably improve on my take of the movie. It's really no wonder that some are calling this film the best of the year. It really is well done and rather engaging.

I recommend you check it out if you're okay with more artsy kind of films. This is a nice one and seeing it in the theater is worth the cost. I'll get this DVD as soon as it comes out, not unlike I did for The Chronicles of Riddick and will shortly do (next week) for Spider-Man 2. I really enjoyed this movie.

ALAN'S MOVIE RATING: DVD-Worthy without a doubt.