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Overall Rating
4.36

Awesome65.37%
Worth A Look: 18.54%
Average: 7.32%
Pretty Bad: 3.9%
Total Crap: 4.88%

17 reviews, 103 user ratings


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Sideways (2004)
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by Stephen Groenewegen

"Fresh, funny, adult - What more could you ask for?"
5 stars

Sideways celebrates the good things in life: love, wine, freedom and friendship. It’s a total joy; ten minutes in, I didn’t want the movie to end.

One week remains until Jack’s wedding. For a gift, best man Miles (Paul Giamatti) is taking Jack (Thomas Haden Church) on a tour of the Californian vineyards. Miles has planned a leisurely week of wine tasting and golf but as soon as they hit the road, Jack announces that this is his last week of freedom and he wants to party. Jack promises to get Miles laid, as a present to his best man.

Jack and Miles have been buddies since college; as middle-aged men, they’re yin and yang. Jack is instinctive and spontaneous, rough around the edges and carefree. Still depressed from his divorce two years earlier, Miles is negative and prone to depression. Twenty years of friendship and shared experience is what they have in common now.

Jack’s a struggling actor - his heyday was in a soap opera, One Life to Live, and his only work these days is voiceovers for TV commercials. He’s seriously considering giving away the game altogether. Miles is a middle school English teacher who’s peddling a third unpublished novel. His agent won’t return his calls so the prospects of this one getting published aren’t looking bright.

On the first night, they hook up with Maya (Virginia Madsen), a sad-eyed waitress at “The Hitching Post” restaurant who’s as much of an oenophile (wine expert, to you and me) as Miles. The next day, Jack becomes smitten with a spunky wine pourer named Stephanie (Sandra Oh). The scene is set for a double date and Jack warns Miles not to let his “depression, anxiety and egghead downer shit” ruin a good time. Still, this is real life, and the course of love does not run smooth...

Not only did I quickly come to care for the characters in Sideways, I had an overwhelming desire to see them happy. This is a first class script, based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Rex Pickett. Director Alexander Payne and regular co-writer Jim Taylor also collaborated on Citizen Ruth, Election and About Schmidt. They were smart and incisive screenplays, character-driven satires, but Sideways has real heart. Payne and Taylor present characters with faults and frailties intact to highlight their humanity, not to criticise them. The movie is clever without being smug.

Performances are faultless. It helps that the actors don’t carry excess baggage from too many famous movies. Paul Giamatti may have also played a depressive writer in last year’s American Splendor, but the roles are otherwise entirely different and he does not repeat himself. Miles takes wine appreciation to nerdish extremes, but Payne wants us to root for him, not laugh at him. Church (from TV sitcoms Ned and Stacey, Wings) makes for a terrifically funny and endearingly self-centred rogue. The fragile Maya has been bruised by love, but Madsen’s soft hopefulness is never pathetic or tragic. Only Sandra Oh seems short-changed by the story; she walks away with her share of laughs, but Stephanie isn’t as layered as the others.

Sideways is imbued with an air of discovery. Director Payne is working away from his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, for the first time and subtitles all the locations like an enthusiastic tour guide. Cinematographer Phedon Papamichael took his cameras to a lot of real places in Santa Barbara County and the Santa Ynez Valley. The hazy pastel photography is a tribute to 1970s filmmakers like Hal Ashby, and perfectly complemented by Kevin Tent’s smooth editing and Rolfe Kent’s relaxed jazz score.

Rest assured, you don’t have to know anything about wine, or even drink the stuff, to delight in this movie. Wine provides the setting and central metaphor for a universal story about human connections and relationships. Payne directs this bittersweet comedy with a delicacy and sensitivity that is enchanting and surprising, far surpassing his previous achievements.

Moments of Sideways are plain perfect. I never could have foreseen that the label on a wine bottle could make me cry. It’s hard to imagine anything else coming along to top this as the most rewarding movie experience of the year.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10451&reviewer=104
originally posted: 12/15/04 13:08:58
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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

2/21/15 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
9/14/08 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
10/29/07 mb So boring and overrated !! 1 stars
5/27/07 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
12/24/06 David Pollastrini boring, dull, etc. 2 stars
9/13/06 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
3/29/06 Charles Blair Barry Makes you want to kill every charater in this highly overrated sac of shit! 1 stars
3/18/06 MP Bartley Swingers 20 years and 1 nervous breakdown later. Giamatti and Church are sublime 5 stars
11/12/05 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
9/26/05 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
7/06/05 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
6/27/05 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
6/08/05 Agent Sands Giamatti has great timing and carries one hell of a touching movie. 4 stars
6/07/05 DM Funny and well-acted (WHY THE FUCK DIDN'T GIAMATTI GET AN OSCAR NOMINATION?) 5 stars
6/06/05 Indrid Cold An essentially flawless drama/comedy. Too bad there's nothing really new to say. 5 stars
5/30/05 Kathy Ugh!!! 1 stars
5/28/05 tabitha I was soooo disappointed! I am amazed this movie won awards. 1 stars
5/25/05 Jake A comic masterpiece. The #1 best film of 2004. 5 stars
5/21/05 Kellie i don't see what the big deal was and i like paul giamatti...too bad 3 stars
4/29/05 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
4/11/05 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
4/02/05 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
3/26/05 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
3/24/05 Dana Gordon You just have to feel for Miles and Jack 5 stars
3/19/05 Green Grenlim Has some great moments 4 stars
3/09/05 dbx Loved it! really really funny. Kinda reminded me of Swingers a bit... 5 stars
3/06/05 Josh Basically a sentimental buddy cartrip movie. Disappointing. 3 stars
3/03/05 HORAN THE MAN!!!!! THIS MOVIE SUCKED MY LEFT NUT SIDEWAYS!! 1 stars
2/28/05 Jeff Anderson One of the best films I've seen in a long time! The leads are great, but Madsen ROCKS!!!!!! 5 stars
2/25/05 L.G. If you have low expectations, you might enjoy it.. some laughs, but kind of depressing 3 stars
2/24/05 Mary JD Thought it to be bvery comical and sweet! 5 stars
2/18/05 malcolm wonderful acting, pretty funny, but overrated 3 stars
2/16/05 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
2/14/05 Nathan Wilhite What an awsome movie. I never knew Pinot could be so fascinating! 5 stars
2/12/05 Littlepurch Very enjoyable. Sweet, sensitive and occasionally hilarious. The two hours flew by. 5 stars
2/10/05 David Bennett Wonderful film, a "must see" 5 stars
2/08/05 Gil Carlson Sweet, funny and moving film, first rate! 5 stars
2/07/05 craig varney great laughs and great chemistry 4 stars
2/06/05 Jeff Anderson A TRULY GREAT & SWEET FILM! Giamatti, Church, & especially Madsen are astonishingly great!! 5 stars
2/06/05 cookie boring 2 stars
2/05/05 bongeezer Over Rated.... Nice for wine education. 3 stars
2/03/05 Clifford C Gardner good fim and a wine education 4 stars
2/03/05 the Grinch Alex Payne just gets better and better. A beautiful, subtle, ridiculously funny movie. 5 stars
2/01/05 Danita Berg A fantastic movie! Made me wish I liked wine. 5 stars
2/01/05 Kenneth Hannan Great performances and unforgetable moments. 5 stars
2/01/05 pym a very good film. cute, quirky, sweet and funny. 5 stars
2/01/05 Andrea Haresign way cute & entertaining 5 stars
2/01/05 Robert Pfeifer I'm ready to see it again !!! 5 stars
2/01/05 AngeFaitore I love Thomas Haden Church... but I still think he's selling out to his cult fanbase! 4 stars
2/01/05 Alison awesome movie! 5 stars
1/31/05 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
1/30/05 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
1/29/05 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
1/13/05 Koitus "No, no .. the new ("Barely Legal") one! // Now Miles .. don't $@#% it up!!! Grt lines! 4 stars
1/07/05 Elizabeth S Some poignant moments, but highly overrated. Good to see Haden Church again. 3 stars
1/02/05 Jim Good performances, sharp writing 5 stars
12/29/04 burton miller funny, excellent dialog, real - a must see 4 stars
12/27/04 Steve Very well made movie. 5 stars
12/24/04 Craig best movie of the year 5 stars
12/16/04 Peter This film made me want to gouge my eyes out 1 stars
12/14/04 Suzz Great acting/great writing/great directing 5 stars
12/13/04 Janelle Definitely the best pic of the year! 5 stars
12/04/04 bodhi speaks this was one of the best movies i've seen in ages. makes me want to get serious about life 5 stars
12/01/04 Leonetti Merlot Best American movie in years. Virginia Madsen is outstanding 5 stars
12/01/04 Dirt Whore absolutely superb!!! 5 stars
11/28/04 seymour i am surprised i lasted the 45 min. that i stayed...the worst, and i rarely walk out a dump 1 stars
11/23/04 adrian christie wry humor and lots of truthful insights into relationships 5 stars
11/23/04 Chris Absolutely loved this film. Great writing, great acting and hilarious. 5 stars
11/21/04 ajay Drove 45 minutes to see this and wasn't disappointed. 5 stars
11/16/04 Taylor Fladgate I laughted, I cried, I wanted to drink a lot of wine afterwards 5 stars
11/15/04 Naka Nothing groundbreaking, but it doesn't matter. Top-quality all around. 5 stars
11/06/04 Kira W. Best film of the year - Academy, take notice! 5 stars
11/03/04 Naka Simply amazing, a subtle little nugget of genius. 5 stars
11/02/04 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
10/07/04 Boobie Bookie Stinking, rotting - I take it back, dang it! It was OK, not half bad, darn it! 3 stars
10/06/04 Norman Hollyn Fabulous, incisive, involving. 5 stars
9/28/04 film jerk two guys drink and whine - who cares??!!! 2 stars
9/27/04 AngeFaitore Thomas Haden Church: Sellout 2 stars
9/13/04 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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