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Paul Giamatti
as Miles Raymond

Thomas Haden Church
as Jack

Virginia Madsen
as Maya

Sandra Oh
as Stephanie

Patrick Gallagher
as Gary the Bartender

Written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor

Directed by Alexander Payne

Running Time: 2:03

Rated R
for language, some strong
sexual content and nudity.



Sideways was a simple yet engaging movie. I didn't find much of a point to it, but I liked the story and the performances.


Miles and his best friend Jack decide to go on a little road trip the week before Jack is getting married. Miles is a wanna-be novelist who was not-so-recently divorced and very down on himself. Jack on the other hand has a beautiful fiancée and is an actor who makes a living off of old commercials. Together they decide to go wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley. Miles is a wine connoisseur so this trip is supposed to be a lot of fun for him. Jack on the other hand, just wants to have as much sex as he can with other women, before he gets married. The two of them run into two ladies during their journey. First they meet Maya, a waitress at a local hangout. Then they meet Stephanie, who works at a local wine place. Turns out Maya and Stephanie know each other, so the four of them go out. Miles and Maya hit it off, but Miles is still afraid of relationships after his last marriage dissolved. Jack and Stephanie on the other hand, hit it off immediately, and Jack gets his wish. This puts Miles at a crossroads. Tell the truth about Jack, or stay loyal to his friend. What will happen with the truth is finally revealed?


As I said before, Sideways was a simple story about two guys on a road trip and the troubles they get into. I didn't find that there was a real reason for all of this. Maybe Miles coming out of his shell towards the end was the big revelation, but with this movie, I don't think there needed to be a big coming out. The movie moved along at a nice pace, and if you're into wine and wine tasting, you'll find their various excursions and discussions about wine interesting. I don't drink wine, so I didn't really care, but I enjoyed the passion Miles showed towards the wine. It's nice to see an actor get into a role so much that you really believed he cared about the different kinds of wine. In that respect, the movie kind of reminded me of Big Night, since that movie revolved around a passion for cooking. Or maybe even Chocolat, which revolved around a passion for chocolate. In none of the films was the main story about food/drink, but it was what the plot centered around while exploring other topics.

Paul Giamatti might be one of the most unlikely leading men in Hollywood, but with this film and his star turn in the acclaimed American Splendor he is certainly making a name for himself. He plays the put-upon, down and out, loveable loser character very well. You feel a certain kinship with him, and hope for him to succeed. Thomas Haden Church, who I haven't seen since Wings went off the air, was very enjoyable as the frat boy who never grew up. You wonder how someone like him could possibly get married, when you see him running around naked because some woman's husband came home too early. Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh were inspired casting for this kind of film. Normally in order to sell a movie, you'd think the producers would have gone out and found some hot, young blonds, but instead they picked to women, beautiful in their own right, but outside of mainstream. Seeing Oh especially was a delight, because you don't normally see a minority with such a pivotal role in these kinds of films.

The one thing that the movie never explained was the title. Apparently in the book the movie was based on, sideways referred to a character when they had been drinking too much. I don't recall that bit of information coming out in the film, so the title might be a bit confusing to most people. I enjoyed how the story just moved along at its own pace. There were no big explosions (unless you count the very funny car accident and Stephanie going ballistic on Jack.) The movie wasn't one of those films where you left the theater wondering what just happened. It was easy going story about two friends, whose commitment to each other never waivered, no matter what the situation. Even if one thought the other was doing something wrong, their friendship came first. That kind of bond is fun to see in a film, and when two actors who seem so different make you feel like they have that bond, it makes the movie that much more entertaining. The film was light-hearted and at times very funny and never got into a funk that most films get into, where the movie gets slow and boring.


So overall, I enjoyed Sideways for its simplicity and passion. The acting was top notch and the story was fun, if not very deep.

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reviewed 10/20/04

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