More in-depth film festival coverage than any other website!
Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About 

Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 18.45%
Average: 7.28%
Pretty Bad: 4.37%
Total Crap: 4.85%

17 reviews, 104 user ratings

Latest Reviews

To the Ends of the Earth by Jay Seaver

Wood Job! by Jay Seaver

News of the World by Rob Gonsalves

Promising Young Woman by Rob Gonsalves

Wonder Woman 1984 by Rob Gonsalves

Godfather, Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone by Rob Gonsalves

Mank by Rob Gonsalves

Wander Darkly by Rob Gonsalves

Stand In, The by Rob Gonsalves

MLK/FBI by alejandroariera

subscribe to this feed

Sideways (2004)
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Collin Souter

"Imagine having an afterglow instead of a hangover."
5 stars

Drinking wine is perfectly natural. The earth produces the fruit, in this case the grape. The grape gets picked and smashed. The juices get turned into wine for our consumption. We drink the wine and many things happen. We lose ourselves. We find ourselves. We do things we would never do sober, like call ex-lovers. Some say when we drink the truth comes out. We drink to forget or maybe subconsciously to keep from aging, which seems futile. You can’t stop aging. Soon, you will die and be one with the earth from which that plant came to produce the grape, and so on and so forth. Drinking can screw you up, but to screw up in life is only part of the natural aging process.

Alexander Payne’s “Sideways,” a film about people who drink a lot of wine, is one of those movies that knows us a little too well. Payne has always had a gift for making movies that have a laugh-so-as-not-to-cry tone to them. He knows that not every protagonist has to be likable. In fact, every one of his main characters—Ruth Stoops, Jim McAllister, Warren Schmidt—has basic human flaws that we often don’t see in American movies. We recognize them as our own, whether we like it or not and, in doing so, we find ourselves rooting for these people to do better. When a character says, “I’m so insignificant, I can’t even kill myself,” we have no idea if we should laugh or cry, but we believe that character believes it.

It might remind people of Stephen Frears’ “High Fidelity.” It takes place in a specific world you might know nothing about, but it doesn’t matter. The human beings on screen will probably be very familiar to you. I understand the humor involving obsessive music collectors because I am one, but I have no idea how to taste wine the way the characters in “Sideways” do. I drink it. It tastes good, but I have no idea what to look for. If I slur my words or stumble around, than I must like it because why would I keep drinking it? A wine connoisseur would cringe at such a statement, but then I would cringe at anyone who bought U2’s Achtung Baby and only listened to “Mysterious Ways.”

But like I said, it doesn’t matter. The only thing you need to understand when going into “Sideways” is that people like Miles Raymond exist. Miles (Paul Giamatti) knows wine. He has an eye for its texture, a nose for its carefully constructed aroma and a palate for its distinct flavor. He knows the history, he knows what goes into the making of it and he knows how to drink it with a burger and onion rings. He used to have a wife who shared in his passion, but they have since divorced. He longs to have her back, or if not her than someone with “a great palate.”

Miles has only one shoulder to cry on, his best friend Jack (Thomas Hayden Church). Jack has no taste for wine and will freely chew bubble gum while drinking it, which naturally infuriates Miles. The freewheeling Jack will soon be married and has one week to have one last hoorah (as though he has a week’s worth of 25th Hours before his prison sentence). Jack—a former soap opera star who now makes money reading copy for used car ads—wants to loosen Miles up and help him forget about his failed marriage, his failed attempt at writing the great American novel and forget about being himself.

The odd couple takes a road trip through the California wineries. Jack wants to get laid at least once before the end of the week and urges Miles to do the same. The two each meet a woman who suits them. Jack meets Stephanie (Sandra Oh) and has no intention of telling her about his upcoming marriage. Miles meets Maya (Virginia Madsen), a woman he has had his eye on for a while, but has never pursued because “she’s just a waitress” who probably knows nothing about wine. Wrong. The foursome share the week together drinking, playing golf, sharing secrets, keeping secrets and messing up.

In spite of its bleak nature, this may be Payne’s sunniest movie yet. Known for keeping his characters trapped under the grey skies of Omaha, Payne lets the California sun shine through the clouds. Thematically, it resembles Payne’s last film, “About Schmidt,” in that it focuses on a male figure on the verge of taking another step into adulthood. Like Warren Schmidt, Jack has a week to figure out if he really wants a certain marriage to happen. Also like Warren Schmidt, Miles has trouble taking initiative and can’t help but let his flaws get the best of him. Unlike Schmidt, these two have little chance of succumbing to conformity.

The coupling of Paul Giamatti and Thomas Hayden Church as Jack and Miles seems somewhat miraculous. Giamatti, who has finally achieved the status he has deserved as a leading man, creates such an instantly recognizable character in Miles. The key is that Giamatti doesn’t play the self pity for laughs. Instead he plays off Jack’s irresponsibility and gets his laughs through looking down on the one person who has the potential to screw up more than him. As Jack, Thomas Hayden Church, a terrific actor whom you might remember from TV’s Wings, has the perfect deadpan, yet free-falling and wayward sensibilities to play off of Miles’ pomposity. It’s a dream team, plain and simple.

It would be a mistake not to mention Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh, two other unlikely casting choices. Madsen has had a bumpy career in many straight-to-video and made-for-TV films, but has always had her admirers thanks to films such as “Candyman” and “Electric Dreams.” Here, she gets to reach a wide audience and show that she has a talent that filmmakers have been taking for granted for too long. It’s a smart, wonderfully understated performance that should earn her more respect than she has been given. On the other hand, Sandra Oh, who has always been an indie favorite, continues to demonstrate why.

Because of its uncommon cast and its true-to-life nature, “Sideways” is one of those movies you’re thankful to see make it through the system. It does not surprise me that Payne has made one of the smartest, funniest movies of the year, nor does it surprise me that he has yet to stick to a formula. What surprises me is how much his films, well, surprise me. A movie that shows how alcohol can turn us into buffoons should not make me want to drink, but I love hearing Miles and Maya talk passionately about wine that I actually get a taste for some Merlot. Sorry, is that wrong?

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 10/29/04 14:20:23
[printer] printer-friendly format  
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

10/17/18 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
9/14/08 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
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
Note: Duplicate, 'planted,' or other obviously improper comments
will be deleted at our discretion. So don't bother posting 'em. Thanks!
Your Name:
Your Comments:
Your Location: (state/province/country)
Your Rating:

Discuss this movie in our forum

  22-Oct-2004 (R)
  DVD: 05-Apr-2005



Home Reviews  Articles  Release Dates Coming Soon  DVD  Top 20s Criticwatch  Search
Public Forums  Festival Coverage  Contests About Australia's Largest Movie Review Database.
Privacy Policy | HBS Inc. | |   

All data and site design copyright 1997-2017, HBS Entertainment, Inc.
Search for
reviews features movie title writer/director/cast