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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 Rob Gonsalves

"Giamatti rocks."
5 stars

Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti), the sad-sack oenophile who forms one-half of 'Sideways,' is the sort of intellectual loser often found in the work of Woody Allen and Wallace Shawn.

Miles doesn't know much -- about himself, about why his marriage failed two years ago, about where his amorphous novel-in-progress is going -- but he does know one thing: wine. He sniffs, sips, swishes, and analyzes the stuff like a born expert -- not that anyone in his immediate sphere cares. Miles toils as an eight-grade English teacher, hoping, like many other English teachers, that a publisher will warm to his work and finance a cozy life spent at book parties and wine tastings.

Sideways, directed by the incisive Alexander Payne (Election, Citizen Ruth), follows Miles and his old college buddy Jack (Thomas Haden Church), a has-been soap actor, on a week's vacation through the well-lit banality of California. Jack is getting married the next week, and Miles wants to take him out for a final bachelor roar -- which, for the schlumpily ascetic Miles, means wine tastings and golf. Jack has fleshier goals in mind: he's out to get as much pre-marital sex on the road as he can before entering a life of fidelity. These two nowhere men are a kind of indie-film odd couple: Miles scourges himself with self-doubt, while Jack -- the sort of genially oblivious, action-oriented guy who isn't, to paraphrase Shakespeare, sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought -- just wants to drink and get laid. Miles is nothing but a pale cast of thought.

The men arrive at various vineyards, where Miles is greeted as a regular -- accepted among others who share his passion for the grape. Payne doesn't score easy points off the wine-sniffers; they're not presented as snobs or dorks. In fact, two of the movie's more dynamic characters -- Maya (Virginia Madsen), a grad student who waitresses at one of Miles' favorite restaurants, and Stephanie (Sandra Oh, the director's wife, who made a bold impression as Diane Lane's acerbic, very pregnant friend in Under the Tuscan Sun), a wine pourer, are both also smitten with wine. The movie respects the funkiness of specialized interests; Maya and Stephanie lend oenophilia a patina of cool.

Most of the movie is a two-character play, and the rising anti-star Paul Giamatti is ideally cast as the depressive, mercurial Miles. Giamatti's specialty is schmucks we can identify with, not because he sentimentalizes them, but because he has a rock-solid instinct for regular-guy mannerisms. Miles, in Giamatti's hands, is pathetic but never off-putting. Sitcom actor Thomas Haden Church, of Wings and Ned & Stacey, may have the harder role as a slick womanizer with easy charisma and a streak of callousness. He gives Jack a sort of rough-hewn humility -- Jack may be washed up, but by God, he was on television for a few years, and women still recognize him from the soap opera and take him to bed. He questions neither his past good fortune nor his current obscurity (he does voice-overs for commercials). He's also a boy who never grew up, and in a key scene Church shows us the despair under the mask of the eternal frat boy.

Alexander Payne may be warming up a bit. I wasn't a fan of his previous film, About Schmidt, which seemed too consciously tailored as a Jack Nicholson bid for indie cred. (If Nicholson wants that, he should continue to work under Sean Penn's direction, and leave the ugly toupees at home.) That movie left me cold, but maybe only because Payne's first two films, especially Election but also the equal-opportunity offender Citizen Ruth, were such vital satires. Sideways squirts no venom in particular; the flawed people onscreen aren't ridiculed for who they are or what they want. Payne is a compassionate observer here, letting the dialogue scenes breathe, unafraid to throw in some slapstick (a sequence with Miles trying to retrieve a wallet is laugh-out-loud funny) but keeping the comedy rooted in the characters' flaws and strengths. When Jack scores with women, the movie doesn't disapprove -- we see that the women are grown-ups and are choosing one-night stands with him. And when Miles lifts a glass of wine to his nose, transported by the hint of avocado or berries or whatever, the movie doesn't nudge you to giggle.

'Sideways,' in brief, is about happiness and where you find it, and Payne has found it in himself to allow for the comedy and tragedy of ambition. Moving forward or upward, we see here, may be overrated: If Miles never sells his book, and if Jack never finds quality acting work again, at least they can always go sideways.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=10451&reviewer=416
originally posted: 01/13/07 21:33:28
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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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