Sideways (2004)

Even though I’m not a wine drinker (under-age, holla!) I must say that I really did wanna have some by the end of this.

Pinot noir lover Miles (Paul Giamatti) convinces his soon-to-be-married friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) to enjoy his last days of bachelorhood in style. But the pair end up choosing women (Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen) over wine.

What we have here is something that writer/director Alexander Payne is great at: creating human characters, and putting in them in funny but realistic situations. Not the man’s best, but still great stuff.

Payne writes this film really well because he puts a lot of humor into his plot and characters. There’s a lot to be said here about a guy that can use wine-tasting as a romantic dramedy premise, and not make it seem goofy at all. It’s about how these two best-friends, that are totally opposite and were college freshman roommates, are going through a mid-life crises, and honestly don’t have any idea what to do with themselves. There’s a lot of great one-liners, and great scenes as well, but the real heart of the film is the fact that it all has a purpose. You can’t give up on life, or love for that matter, no matter how much it gets you down. If that means having a whole bunch of pinot noir to drink your all your pains away, then so be it, but just understand that life isn’t such a sad place after all.

My only problem with this film is not so much the film itself, it’s just that I don’t quite think I know that much about what this film was targeting for. I’m only 18 and haven’t really had my mid-life crisis just yet, or not that I know of, and I can’t really say that this film spoke louder than words to me, like it did to many others. Once again, I thought that the writing was great, but once again, not really for me since I’m still quite a youngling.

The best element to this whole film is  that it is a character study and I loved characters, and the actors that portray them. Paul Giamatti is perfectly cast as Miles, the neurotic social misfit that he always plays so well. He’s dark, depressing, and always gloomy about something, but he isn’t an annoyance, and Giamatti plays him so well he because he makes him likable and all the same believable. When this guy is talking to you about wine, you believe it, and you feel like you know that this guy knows what he’s talking about and it’s just all so natural. At times, he may seem like kind of a deuche, but if you look at it like this, he’s the only one that has any bit of sense here, the only problem is that he just doesn’t know how to put a smile on. I must say that I thought that Jack the character was kind of a dick, but Thomas Haden Church plays him so well, that I almost forget about all the terrible stuff he does. He’s a liar, cheater, and asshole, but at the same time he’s the perfect example of The Man. He is just that dude that is so hunky, and such a tool, that by the end of the night he always ends up going home with a chick, no matter what promises he made, or what he even said for that matter. Haden Church brings out some of the best lines here, and really does do a great job with showing how such a dickhead of a character, can be likable if you have enough charm and wit. Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh are great as the two supporting ladies, and their scenes with these two dudes feel realistic, and believable even though they are kind of hotter than both. Not that I’m judging or anything……..

Consensus: This is aimed at a certain audience, but you can’t resist Sideways’ the terrific performances from the cast, especially the funny, insightful, and often touching screenplay that will either having you crave some merlot, taking a trip to California, or just going through life with a smile.



  1. With all the hype it was getting at the time I had high expectations when I watched it and it all was quite disappointing to me. I guess I just couldn’t relate to it all and that it was an ok film.

  2. Dan, this might be a good film for you to see in a few years and see if you relate to it differently than you do now. I know there are many films that I might see now that I didn’t appreciate as much when I was younger.

  3. Hey Dan the Man,
    Yes, Sideways was excellent movie. Your observations about character study and the writing were bang-on.
    On a different note, from one blogger to another, you should double-check your posts before publishing them. You consistently have words mixed around and some poor grammar. Nothing that can’t be fixed with an extra review before you post it. Just a little constructive criticism. I’m really enjoying your blog!
    Craig the Critic

  4. LOL! I realized after I posted about your grammar, I had a goof-up in my comment. What I really meant to say off the top was, “Yes, Sideways was AN excellent movie.” HAHAHA…none of us are perfect, right?

    😉 Craig the Critic

  5. Sideways is one of my favourite films. I think the script is wonderful. It’s funny, it’s sad, and it features four great performances. Giamatti and Hayden-Church especially.

  6. I watched this movie before acquiring a taste for wine. Recently I watched it with some friends and opened a two bottles of wine and had a blast. It’s snotty, fun, pretentious, but ultimately a great story to laugh along to. We talked about how awesome it would be to go on a trip like that.

    Payne does do wonders with characterization. I love how the characters describe themselves through the wine.

    • It’s perfect how Payne rounds these characters are so well-rounded, and although I’m not a wine drinker I can see it’s some great stuff because of this film.

  7. I was only 23 when I saw the film and I was into it. Then again, I’m a fan of Alexander Payne’s work. I much prefer Election though I did enjoy this one for its humor as well as the flaws of adulthood.

    • I’m 18 and I liked it, but not as much as I would expect to since I haven’t hit that age barrier yet, but I must say I like Election a lot too, and may have to give that another check-up.

  8. I don’t really think that the age barrier matters that much for one’s enjoyment of movies like Sideways; I mean, I’ve never been to war but I love Black Hawk Down. And Miles is, at his core, a pretty familiar character, I think; we know the guy once his various idiosyncrasies and trappings are stripped away and we see that he’s just a regular guy lacking confidence in himself and unable to get past a major, life-turning event.

    • A lot of the stuff that happens here is just something I couldn’t connect with, but I have to say I loved Miles in this and how Giamatti plays him.

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