Sideways Review

by Liam Cullin (webmaster AT empiremovies DOT com)
September 20th, 2004


For movie reviews, trailers and posters, visit:

There were only a few things I knew about Sideways before deciding to check it out at this year's Toronto International Film Festival. First, it was directed by Alexander Payne - yes, the man behind About Schmidt, but more importantly, the man behind Election. Second, the movie featured a great cast of character actors who are due for some acclaim, namely Paul Giamatti (Pig Vomit in Howard Stern's Private Parts) and Thomas Haden Church (Lowell in TV's Wings). Giamatti won acclaim for his performance in last year's American Slendor, and Church is due. (Sure, he's appeared in a string of shitty movies, but he's always managed to excel in said shitty movies.) And finally, the clip. You know, the one from JoBlo a few months ag.. Now, before you run off to view the clip, let me warn you that it is a bit spoilerish. It doesn't really give anything away, but it happens late enough in the movie to give away what happens to the characters.
For those of you that haven't heard about this movie, I'll give you a brief recap. Thomas Haden Church plays Jack, a fringe actor (he appeared in a soap opera and is now mostly doing commercial voice work) who is one week away from getting married. So for his last week of freedom, his friend Miles (they were college roomates) takes Jack on a tour of wine country in California. Miles is an eighth grade teacher/aspiring author/wine connoisseur. Jack, on the other hand, is a bit of an oaf. Soon, we learn that Jack really just wants to take this time to get laid one last time before he latches on the ole' ball and chain for the rest of his life. A series of sometimes poignant and most times hilarious adventures (and misadventures) ensues.

What can I say about this movie? For what it is, and for the audience that would spend their money on this type of movie, you'll be hard-pressed to find something better this year. And it's a combination of the filmmaking and the acting that makes this movie so enjoyable.

First off - the filmmaking. For the writing I've got to tip my hat to Alexander Payne for being able to continually pick such great material. If Election appealed to anyone under 30 and About Schmidt appealed to anyone over 50, Sideways is going to hit anywhere in between. It's a funny enough movie without ever being overly funny. And at times, it's a bit depressing - but without ever being too depressing. And it's all mixed with a healthy dose of reality. It's just a well-balanced story. For the actual direction, the story moved fluently and never lost my interest.

And then there's the acting. Both leads nailed their performances. Giamatti's Miles, was such a loser that you couldn't help but laugh at him, but he was also the guy who I couldn't help but root for. And Church's Jack. This guy reminds me of a few people I know - but in a good way. I mean, he just wants to get laid. Give him a break. Plus, strong supporting roles from Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh only help to solidify the viewer's involvement in the film because they just make it so - real.

And finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the soundtrack. Nothing too special, but just right for this movie.

If I can give any advice though, try not to go into this movie knowing too much. I just viewed the film's trailer (for the first time) and it gives away most of the movie - which isn't very cool. I went into this movie knowing next to nothing, and enjoyed it that much more for my ignorance. But I guess it's hard not to enjoy a movie like Sideways. There's a bit of each of us in each of these characters - so to not like this movie is to admit that we don't like ourselves. And who wants to do that?

Review Date: September 16, 2004
Author: Liam Cullin

Official Site:
Director: Alexander Payne
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight
Theatrical Release Date: October 20, 2004
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh

Empire Movies
Copyright 2000-2004 Liam Cullin

More on 'Sideways'...

Originally posted in the newsgroup. Copyright belongs to original author unless otherwise stated. We take no responsibilities nor do we endorse the contents of this review.