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Overall Rating
4.36

Awesome65.37%
Worth A Look: 18.54%
Just Average: 7.32%
Pretty Crappy: 3.9%
Sucks: 4.88%

17 reviews, 103 user ratings


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Sideways (2004)
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by Luke Pyzik

"The Pleasure of Payne"
5 stars

“Sideways” is the kind of movie you can’t imagine anyone not liking. It is so funny and in-tune with the human condition that it should win for director Alexander Payne the mainstream audience that may have been put off the quirkiness of his “Citizen Ruth,” “Election,” and “About Schmidt.” “Sideways” is Payne’s best movie, not necessarily because he has toned down the eccentricity to tell a rather straightforward story, but because its characters are so instantly recognizable and sympathetic that we admire their humanity even during their most despicable behavior. The movie is both desperately heartbreaking and terrifically inspirational, a combination only the best filmmakers know to exploit for its resemblance to how so many of us feel about life in general.

Paul Giamatti stars as Miles Raymond, an alcoholic disguised as a wine connoisseur, who takes his soon to be married best friend, Jack (Thomas Haden Church), on a weeklong trip to California wine country. Miles’ plan is to eat well, drink plenty, play some golf, and tour the vineyards, but he soon learns that Jack, a former low-end television actor, plans to have an affair before his upcoming wedding. Jack encourages Miles to join the hunt, but Miles is still clinging to memories of his ex-wife, and his crush on a local waitress seems like such a fantasy that he can’t accept she might actually have a passing interest in him.

Giamatti tackles this sad sack role after last year’s headline grabbing turn as real life sad sack Harvey Pekar, and he goes a long way in proving no two sad sacks are the same. Like Pekar, Miles is a writer, but unlike Pekar, Miles can’t get anyone to publish his work, and if his artistic success could redeem him, he’ll never know it. The emergence of Giamatti as a leading man is turning out to be one of the nicest surprises in recent Hollywood memory. He made himself known to the public as Pig Vomit in Howard Stern’s “Private Parts” and quickly became a viable character actor that audiences instantly recognized as “that guy.” If there was any doubt Giamatti could carry an entire movie after “American Splendor,” he proves in “Sideways” that he is the Denzel Washington of short, awkward white guys.

In a bit of truly courageous casting, Thomas Haden Church (yes, that is Lloyd the mechanic from “Wings”) takes on the main supporting role as Miles best friend, Jack. If ever there was an actor about to be erased from the public consciousness it was Church, but he famously beat out the likes of George Clooney for this role, and he makes the most of the opportunity. Jack is the kind of middle-aged guy who still walks with the swagger of a college student and talks in lingo just out of date enough to give him away. His former success as an actor seems to have given him enough confidence to be attractive to beautiful women, and his addiction to cheating is no less potent than Miles’ addiction to alcohol.

Back in wine country, Jack is able to initiate conversation between Miles and Maya (Virginia Madsen), the waitress he has long admired, and Jack strikes up a relationship with Maya’s sexy friend, Stephanie (Sandra Oh). When the foursome goes out on a double date and end up back at Stephanie’s house, Jack and Stephanie are quick to close the deal physically, while Miles and Maya connect over a shared love for wine. The scene between Miles and Maya is one of the best you’re likely to see all year. The writing, direction, and acting all come from an understanding of the awkwardness of reality, and even as Miles makes a long monologue about his reasons for loving Pinot, it makes sense that a man as lonely and depressed as he is would make such an obvious metaphor as a last-ditch effort to reach out to a woman he can see himself loving. And it also makes sense that even when she responds in the best possible way, his pain will not let him act gracefully on his instincts.

Over the course of the week, Jack and Stephanie become much closer than we could anticipate, and Miles finds himself alone once again. The plot progresses not out of a need to fill a quota for laughs or romance, but out of the organic inevitabilities of the characters’ flawed personalities. We see the depths of Miles and Jack’s addictions in scenes both funny and tragic, and even as we laugh at the outlandish results of their foibles, so to do we despair at the happiness that seems just out of their reach.

The movie ends correctly on an ambiguous note, just after Miles runs into his ex-wife in a scene that will surely break the heart of anyone who has had the misfortune of seeing a former partner with another person. The movie does us a service by ending with a ray of hope, though not giving us everything we want to know. What’s behind that door? The answer will be different depending on your own outlook. I think Harvey Pekar would watch this movie and say that nothing’s behind the door, but Miles … Well, he’s the one knocking on it, isn’t he?

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10451&reviewer=381
originally posted: 11/18/04 16:11:56
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Chicago Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Chicago Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Starz Denver Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 New York Film Festival. For more in the 2004 New York Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/20/15 PAUL SHORTT ENTERTAINING, ENGAGING, WELL MADE AND WITTY WITH GREAT PERFORMANCES 5 stars
4/17/11 Quigley One of the most superbly directed and acted films ever made. 5 stars
3/10/09 Dane Youssef 2004 Was A Great Year. A Glorious Vintage. May It Age As Well As "Citizen Kane" 5 stars
9/13/08 Annie G One of those lame movies that reviewers like because not much happens. 2 stars
12/03/07 SamanthaP so freaking overrated!!!! of it hadn't been hyped it would have been good 1 stars
10/28/07 mb So boring and overrated !! 1 stars
5/26/07 fools♫gold Nice stuff. B, perhaps a B+. 4 stars
5/08/07 R.W.Welch Slack in spots, but has above par script. B- 4 stars
12/23/06 David Pollastrini boring, dull, etc. 2 stars
9/12/06 Bitchflaps Giamatti inspires real empathy for his character. Don't be put off by its twee appearance. 4 stars
8/20/06 Luisa Wonderful, intelligent comedy/drama, love Paul Giamatti! 4 stars
8/19/06 Verrine Does "comedy" mean something different to reviewers? 1 stars
5/23/06 Gary Bastien This movie stunk. A movie for wine snobs. Don't let them know even know what Pinot wine is 1 stars
3/28/06 Charles Blair Barry Makes you want to kill every charater in this highly overrated sac of shit! 1 stars
3/17/06 MP Bartley Swingers 20 years and 1 nervous breakdown later. Giamatti and Church are sublime 5 stars
11/11/05 Monster W. Kung Seems pretty good stuff to me. 4 stars
11/05/05 millersxing winetasting (snore), men behaving badly (yawn), recapturing the will to live (priceless) 4 stars
9/25/05 a. kurlovs very dull characters, plot and humor. perfect movie to fall asleep to. 2 stars
9/14/05 Jonathon Holmes best film of 2004, Oscar should be ashamed to snub Giamatti & rob Madsen of her award! 5 stars
7/26/05 Jake A comic masterpiece 5 stars
7/05/05 Charlie Besides when those sick bastards smashed that beautiful Saab 900, this is a great movie! 4 stars
6/30/05 Mark thought the buzz was for something; no -boring and dull 2 stars
6/26/05 JFK good movie, good script, thomas haden church in his best performance 4 stars
6/26/05 Jeff Anderson Fantastic. I became a huge Virginia Madsen fan thanks to this film. She's truly awesome!!!! 5 stars
6/08/05 Tigger Great ensemble film, I will watch it a second time to follow the star a little bett od 4 stars
6/07/05 Agent Sands Giamatti has great timing and carries one hell of a touching movie. 4 stars
6/06/05 DM Funny and well-acted (WHY THE FUCK DIDN'T GIAMATTI GET AN OSCAR NOMINATION?) 5 stars
6/05/05 Indrid Cold An essentially flawless drama/comedy. Too bad there's nothing really new to say. 5 stars
5/29/05 Kathy Ugh!!! 1 stars
5/27/05 tabitha I was soooo disappointed! I am amazed this movie won awards. 1 stars
5/24/05 Jake A comic masterpiece. The #1 best film of 2004. 5 stars
5/20/05 Kellie i don't see what the big deal was and i like paul giamatti...too bad 3 stars
4/28/05 ThroneofBlood Funny and heartfelt. 5 stars
4/14/05 Scott Lamont This movie, like wine gets better with time, and it peaks before your eyes. 5 stars
4/10/05 Monday Morning Only in a few spots does this movie not rock. Shows that good writing trumps special efx. 5 stars
4/07/05 Eugene Mortensen living near wind country I know people like them and I liked the movie a lot 4 stars
4/01/05 brody horan only has one nut because the other got bit off by his butt buddy 5 stars
3/27/05 Sid Savillo/Novelist/Scriptwriter Miles is like wine; “evolving” into something, til the end when he imparts a better “taste" 5 stars
3/25/05 Greg Ursic A great film: Giamatta was hilarious and too bad he was totally overlooked at Oscar time 5 stars
3/25/05 Marci Jenkins Excellent! 5 stars
3/24/05 Lars One of my all time favorite movies 5 stars
3/23/05 Dana Gordon You just have to feel for Miles and Jack 5 stars
3/18/05 Green Grenlim Has some great moments 4 stars
3/08/05 dbx Loved it! really really funny. Kinda reminded me of Swingers a bit... 5 stars
3/05/05 Josh Basically a sentimental buddy cartrip movie. Disappointing. 3 stars
3/02/05 HORAN THE MAN!!!!! THIS MOVIE SUCKED MY LEFT NUT SIDEWAYS!! 1 stars
2/27/05 Jeff Anderson One of the best films I've seen in a long time! The leads are great, but Madsen ROCKS!!!!!! 5 stars
2/24/05 L.G. If you have low expectations, you might enjoy it.. some laughs, but kind of depressing 3 stars
2/23/05 Mary JD Thought it to be bvery comical and sweet! 5 stars
2/17/05 malcolm wonderful acting, pretty funny, but overrated 3 stars
2/15/05 Melody Arneil I kind of thought of it as being a coming of age film for adults. Fascinating wine info! 4 stars
2/14/05 Natalie Stonecipher Cheap imitation of Farrelly-esque comedy -- more mean-spirited & less funny. 2 stars
2/13/05 Nathan Wilhite What an awsome movie. I never knew Pinot could be so fascinating! 5 stars
2/11/05 Littlepurch Very enjoyable. Sweet, sensitive and occasionally hilarious. The two hours flew by. 5 stars
2/09/05 David Bennett Wonderful film, a "must see" 5 stars
2/07/05 Gil Carlson Sweet, funny and moving film, first rate! 5 stars
2/06/05 craig varney great laughs and great chemistry 4 stars
2/05/05 Jeff Anderson A TRULY GREAT & SWEET FILM! Giamatti, Church, & especially Madsen are astonishingly great!! 5 stars
2/05/05 cookie boring 2 stars
2/04/05 bongeezer Over Rated.... Nice for wine education. 3 stars
2/02/05 Clifford C Gardner good fim and a wine education 4 stars
2/02/05 the Grinch Alex Payne just gets better and better. A beautiful, subtle, ridiculously funny movie. 5 stars
1/31/05 Danita Berg A fantastic movie! Made me wish I liked wine. 5 stars
1/31/05 Kenneth Hannan Great performances and unforgetable moments. 5 stars
1/31/05 pym a very good film. cute, quirky, sweet and funny. 5 stars
1/31/05 Andrea Haresign way cute & entertaining 5 stars
1/31/05 Robert Pfeifer I'm ready to see it again !!! 5 stars
1/31/05 AngeFaitore I love Thomas Haden Church... but I still think he's selling out to his cult fanbase! 4 stars
1/31/05 Alison awesome movie! 5 stars
1/30/05 Lisa Craven Loved it and want to watch it again and again. 5 stars
1/30/05 nick2k felt a lil overdrawn, but it was a really good (and funny) story. great ending too! 5 stars
1/29/05 Gretchen Lowe Very good, worth seeing twice for the acting! 4 stars
1/29/05 John Bale Gentle but overlong comedy with aromas of truth and the grape. 3 stars
1/28/05 govenar didn't live up to my expectations 3 stars
1/27/05 Bert Rito Giamatti was fucking robbed of an Oscar nom. This is pure brilliance in a wine bottle... 5 stars
1/21/05 Uncle Phucker Not a great film but a great time. I had a ball and the actors and dialgoue blew me.... 4 stars
1/12/05 Koitus "No, no .. the new ("Barely Legal") one! // Now Miles .. don't $@#% it up!!! Grt lines! 4 stars
1/06/05 Elizabeth S Some poignant moments, but highly overrated. Good to see Haden Church again. 3 stars
1/01/05 Jim Good performances, sharp writing 5 stars
12/28/04 burton miller funny, excellent dialog, real - a must see 4 stars
12/26/04 Steve Very well made movie. 5 stars
12/23/04 Craig best movie of the year 5 stars
12/15/04 Peter This film made me want to gouge my eyes out 1 stars
12/13/04 Suzz Great acting/great writing/great directing 5 stars
12/12/04 Janelle Definitely the best pic of the year! 5 stars
12/03/04 bodhi speaks this was one of the best movies i've seen in ages. makes me want to get serious about life 5 stars
11/30/04 Leonetti Merlot Best American movie in years. Virginia Madsen is outstanding 5 stars
11/30/04 Dirt Whore absolutely superb!!! 5 stars
11/27/04 seymour i am surprised i lasted the 45 min. that i stayed...the worst, and i rarely walk out a dump 1 stars
11/22/04 adrian christie wry humor and lots of truthful insights into relationships 5 stars
11/22/04 Chris Absolutely loved this film. Great writing, great acting and hilarious. 5 stars
11/20/04 ajay Drove 45 minutes to see this and wasn't disappointed. 5 stars
11/15/04 Taylor Fladgate I laughted, I cried, I wanted to drink a lot of wine afterwards 5 stars
11/14/04 Naka Nothing groundbreaking, but it doesn't matter. Top-quality all around. 5 stars
11/05/04 Kira W. Best film of the year - Academy, take notice! 5 stars
11/02/04 Naka Simply amazing, a subtle little nugget of genius. 5 stars
11/01/04 richard weininger everyone can find something of themselves in this film. 5 stars
10/25/04 Luke One of the best films I've seen. 5 stars
10/06/04 Boobie Bookie Stinking, rotting - I take it back, dang it! It was OK, not half bad, darn it! 3 stars
10/05/04 Norman Hollyn Fabulous, incisive, involving. 5 stars
9/27/04 film jerk two guys drink and whine - who cares??!!! 2 stars
9/26/04 AngeFaitore Thomas Haden Church: Sellout 2 stars
9/12/04 Gregory very good 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  22-Oct-2004 (R)
  DVD: 05-Apr-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  26-Jan-2005




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