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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 18.45%
Just Average: 7.28%
Pretty Crappy: 4.37%
Sucks: 4.85%

17 reviews, 104 user ratings

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Sideways (2004)
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by Elaine Perrone

"Raise a glass and toast to Sideways!"
5 stars

SCREENED AT SEATTLE'S MAJESTIC BAY THEATRE, OCTOBER 28, 2004. NORTHWEST PREMIERE INTRODUCED BY ALEXANDER PAYNE AND JIM TAYLOR. Accepting a Golden Globe award for Best Actor (Drama) for his performance in ABOUT SCHMIDT, Jack Nicholson quipped, "I thought we were making a comedy." SIDEWAYS is the fourth collaboration of director Alexander Payne and his co-writer Jim Taylor, and, like CITIZEN RUTH, ELECTION, and ABOUT SCHMIDT before it, much of the brilliance of this movie comes from the fact that it defies easy categorization. By turns hilarious, poignant, and even shocking, if SIDEWAYS is "about" anything, it is about the wonderful, horrible messiness of real life, in particular the lives of four complex people who have been around the block a few times and are still trying to find their way.

Certainly a strong candidate for a nomination for a Golden Globe and, if there is any justice, an Oscar this year is Paul Giamatti for his performance as the nebbishy Miles, a middle-school teacher and writer who can't find anyone to publish his novel, an oenophile (wine connoisseur) with a drinking problem. Miles is a loser who clearly knows he is one, as anyone can see from the look on his face as he stares at himself in a mirror after pilfering money from his own mother. Two years divorced, Miles still carries a torch for his ex-wife, who he often phones late at night after several hours of knocking back the vino. Catching him out, his best friend Jack scolds him, "Did you drink and dial?"

Jack (Thomas Haden Church) isn't much better off. At 40-something, he is a washed up actor, the former star of a daytime soap opera who is relegated to doing voice work for commercials. He is also a sex-addict who has never met a woman he wouldn't bed, out for one last fling and a bit of male bonding with Miles before his impending wedding day.

Setting off for a five-day trek through California's wine country, Jack envisions nothing more than doing a little wine-tasting, playing a little golf, and getting himself and Miles laid before he has to return home to say "I do." Things become significantly more complicated when they hook up with Maya (a luminous Virginia Madsen), a waitress with whom Miles has had a passing acquaintance for years but has never really talked to, and Stephanie (an equally radiant Sandra Oh), a feisty wine-pourer at one of the vineyards, who, to Jack's delight, is as sexually adventurous as he is.

As Miles comes to know and develop real feelings for Maya, he discovers her to be an enthusiastic oenophile more than equal to him in her knowledge of grapes, broadening her horizons even further by going back to school to earn a degree in horticulture. She is an intrepid woman who has had her share of hard knocks but has learned to find strength within herself, and she is certainly not looking for a man to rescue her. Still, when Miles finally opens up to her, explaining his fascination for Pinot, the product of temperamental, thin-skinned grapes that need great care and attention, she fully understands that he is talking about himself, which she finds greatly endearing.

As Jack becomes more and more involved with Stephanie, he broaches the idea of moving in with her and her small daughter, never letting on that she is not the only woman in his life. (Never much of a realist, Jack even ponders the idea of returning to Los Angeles to get married, then continuing to commute between his two households, the one in L.A. and the other that he envisions making with Stephanie and her little girl in the Santa Ynez Valley.)

Both relationships hit the skids when Miles accidentally slips up about Jack's impending wedding to Maya, who breaks the news to an understandably enraged Stephanie. Digging himself an even deeper hole, the perpetually horny Jack gets involved with a married waitress, bringing down the wrath of her behemoth of a husband in a side-splitting -- and jaw-dropping -- sequence that I wouldn't dream of spoiling. (I will say that M.C. Gainey, the actor who plays the husband, deserves some sort of special recognition -- perhaps even a medal for bravery.)

Doing wonderful justice to Payne and Taylor's scintillating script, the four leads are nothing short of a cinematic dream team. Payne noted that his original vision called for two unglamorous actors who could bring to life the story of a pair of beleaguered middle-aged men. Giamatti and Church fit the bill perfectly and are terrific foils for each other. It is said that when the two men met, the chemistry between them was instantaneous -- and it shows in their brilliant work together. Likewise, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh (Payne's real-life wife) shine as the strong, sexy, and intelligent women for whom the two men fall. All four actors have been working for years, although none on Hollywood's A-list. That may change if they finally get the recognition they so richly deserve for their performances in SIDEWAYS.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10451&reviewer=376
originally posted: 11/01/04 22:05:26
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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

10/16/18 Dr. Lao A comedy so unfunny that only a professional critic would like it 2 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
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
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  22-Oct-2004 (R)
  DVD: 05-Apr-2005



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