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Paul Giamatti
Thomas Haden Church
Virginia Madsen
Sandra Oh.
Alexander Payne.
Alexander Payne
Jim Taylor.
Running Time
127 minutes

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Pinot country for old men

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Ageing voiceover actor Jack (Church) is finally tying the knot. To celebrate, his longtime friend Miles (Giamatti) treats him to a stag week in the Californian vineyards, to teach him the ways of wine tasting. But Jack has different plans: he wants to get the morose Miles laid - and get his own end away while he's at it...


Fact: Alexander Payne is one of America's most exciting filmmakers. Not because he delivers slick, cobalt-tinged thrillers or CG-fuelled sci-fi swirlers, of course... In fact, his material is placed very deliberately at the other end of the spectacle spectrum. Payne is concerned with the mundane: his is a USA where Jack Nicholson travels the freeways not perched on the back of a Harley, but slumped at the wheel of a Winnebago.

He and co-writer Jim Taylor don't need to worry about being cool or spectacular, because, in the likes of Election, About Schmidt and now Sideways, they've mastered the most important element of storytelling: character. They're not concerned with heroes, just people: small people, bruised people, rumpled people - people like Miles (an Oscar-deserving Paul Giamatti), a depressed, divorced wannabe novelist, who has an encyclopedic knowledge of wine but can't even remember how old his mother is. Or people like Miles' crass buddy Jack (Thomas Haden Church), whose rugged good looks are starting to melt, and who uses this as an excuse to cram as much sex as possible into his final week of bachelorhood.

Making these people interesting is one thing; making them likeable is another, and Payne and Taylor achieve this not in spite of, but because of, their flaws. It's quite a feat - Miles and Jack don't so much get under your skin as climb inside your heart. One scene in particular strikes you hard: while clumsily, reluctantly attempting to seduce waitress and fellow vinophile Maya (an excellent, back-from-obscurity Virginia Madsen), Miles explains why he rates the Pinot grape above any other. Because it's thin-skinned, he says, temperamental, requiring patient nurturing... He's oblivious to the fact he's really describing himself, but Maya isn't.

Payne and Taylor's script sings melodiously in every scene, their acuteness of observation perfectly servicing both the drama and the comedy (you'll giggle at Miles pretentiously holding his finger to his ear as he inhales a wine's aroma), while they're not afraid to occasionally force it broad and farcical, thereby supplying some hearty belly-laughs. It may suffer a slight second-act sag, but as with its characters, Sideways' flaws are no obstacle to loving it.

Brilliantly observed characters are becoming second nature to Payne and Taylor, and the performances here are uniformly terrific. This is wonderful, original stuff.

Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Empire Star Rating

RE: Sideways

a wonderfully acted, slightly thought provoking film that deserves all the oscars it recieved. whitty and humouous at parts, this is a fantastic film! ... More

Posted by shawshank prisoner at 14:29, 14 August 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Sideways

goes to show eh? :D   I'm not wealthy enough to be a connoisseur yet.  I'd do pretty much anything to get hold of the Romanee-conti Richebourgh though……some day….. ... More

Posted by ilovebeerme at 12:28, 10 August 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Sideways

L: ilovebeerme Why on earth would anybody want to die before the 2000 Bordeaux vintage reaches it's peak?  Madness. Strangely I didn't figure you as a connoisseur of fine wines. ... More

Posted by R.J.MacReady at 12:12, 10 August 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Sideways

Why on earth would anybody want to die before the 2000 Bordeaux vintage reaches it's peak?  Madness. ... More

Posted by ilovebeerme at 12:09, 10 August 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Sideways

L: boot L: PatBateman I can even deal with slackers. But whereas Jay and Silent Bob are hilarious and have a few redeeming features, the Sideways boys are just pathetic, grey losers. unnily enough fast forward 15yrs or so and Jay and Silent Bob will probably resemble Jack and Miles more than you'd think. xcept, you know the obligatory scene where Silent Bob says something profound. This time it would be something like, 'Jay, what the hell have we become. Why di... More

Posted by PatBateman at 00:52, 10 August 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Sideways

L: PatBateman I can even deal with slackers. But whereas Jay and Silent Bob are hilarious and have a few redeeming features, the Sideways boys are just pathetic, grey losers. unnily enough fast forward 15yrs or so and Jay and Silent Bob will probably resemble Jack and Miles more than you'd think. ... More

Posted by boot at 17:09, 09 August 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Sideways

Election, great movie. Giamatti, brilliant character actor developing into a great leading man and has good geek credentials. Thomas Haden Church, hadn't really noticed before this but good. This film, hmm. I caught it on DVD a while after the hype machine had peaked and looked forward to an offbeat, quirky, amusing evening. But it's just not that easy. The characters are uniformly pathetic. Not dislikeable or unagreeable. That I can deal with. Look at my username, I love psychos (America... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by PatBateman at 23:33, 08 August 2006 | Report This Post


A really great film!   Subtle, hilarious and poignant, with an award-worthy performance from Giamatti! ... More

Posted by DJ Rob C: Mark II! at 18:56, 27 July 2006 | Report This Post


drinking any Merlot!p; I watched Sideways with my dad the first time - not to be recommended, by the way - but since we both enjoy a good bottle of wine (or two), I thought I'd rent it out. Most of it was "eye-rolling madness", yet there are some priceless and hilarious moments, which make this film absolutely brilliant to watch! Paul Giamatti is a closet genuis really.   Great to quote at dinner parties too. Especially when they have no idea what you're talking about. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Jessica_ca_ca_ca at 11:39, 27 July 2006 | Report This Post


great movie. the 2 leads play off each other really well - Haden Church esp was brilliant. some may call it boring, but i liked the gentle slow feel of it, a great summer movie, and one for me that stands up to repeated viewings. i rarely agree with empire but it was definatly close to, if not, the best film of last year. ... More

Posted by boot at 17:56, 25 July 2006 | Report This Post


Totally brilliant movie. Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giammati are both amazing. The film has everything you need for a good couple of hours entertainment. Great performances and a cracking script combine to make this one of the best movies of 2005. Best enjoyed with a bottle of wine (as long as it isn't Merlot ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by PedroSanchez at 12:07, 25 July 2006 | Report This Post


I saw this on its original release and liked it, I recently got the DVD and I really can't see how this could be given 5 stars. It has two great central performances, some nice photography and a good script. But it's only a ] script. The film begs for emotion that is doesn't deserve and expects the audience to fall in love with two very unlikable characters with very little to help us do so.   It's an ejoyable enough film, but it's very overrated. ... More

Posted by doubleshiny at 17:52, 24 July 2006 | Report This Post

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