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Overall Rating
4.34

Awesome65.05%
Worth A Look: 18.45%
Average: 7.28%
Pretty Bad: 4.37%
Total Crap: 4.85%

17 reviews, 104 user ratings


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Sideways (2004)
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by Brian McKay

"Miles and Jack go to Wine Country"
5 stars

While the "road trip gone awry" formula seems to be mostly utilized in films geared toward the teen stoner demographic these days, director Alexander Payne (ELECTION, ABOUT SCHMIDT) brings us SIDEWAYS for the more mature crowd. And while it contains a few of the standard elements of the buddy road trip formula, and utilizes them to great comedic effect, it adds layers of dramatic complexity to balance out the ongoing shenanigans.

A week before his marriage, aging pretty-boy actor Jack (Thomas Haden Church) joins buddy Miles (Paul Giamatti) for a weeklong excursion into the wine country of Northern California. Miles, a soft-spoken English teacher who’s trying to get a Novel published in the wake of a painful divorce, merely wants to drink some good wine, play some golf, and enjoy hanging out with his friend. Jack, on the other hand, just wants to get laid one last time before he commits himself to one woman.

Their original plan to go all the way up the coast to the Napa Valley ends up stalling in Solvang, where Miles meets the sexy bartender Stephanie (Sandra Oh), and his plans for a one night stand turn into a whirlwind romance. Irritated by Jack’s indiscretions, and distraught over the news that his ex-wife has recently remarried, Miles finds solace in several good bottles of wine and the company of Maya (Virginia Madsen), a recently-divorced waitress who is studying horticulture and is quite the wine aficionado herself. But Maya is also a friend of Stephanie’s, and when Miles inadvertently spills the beans to her about Jack’s impending nuptials, the results are far from pretty.

There are many truly funny moments in SIDEWAYS, as the script alternates between comedic vulgarity and pensive soul-searching. While Jack and Stephanie’s relationship is purely physical (at least on Jack’s part), the characters of Miles and Maya constantly engage in verbal foreplay through discussions of fine wines and fine literature. Wine is, in fact, often the main topic of discussion, and yet it never grows prosaic. And by no means is being a wine snob a prerequisite to enjoying SIDEWAYS. The only things I know about wine are that I prefer reds to whites, and which bottles on the ten-dollar shelf are tolerable, and yet I found each of their discussions about wine engrossing and revealing. Miles’ penchant for Pinots is as fascinating as his hatred of Merlots, while Maya’s romantic notions about the winemaking process nicely complement his more analytical approach to the subject. They are two characters that exude genuine chemistry, yet remain skittish over their individual failures at marriage.

Meanwhile, Jack does some incredibly boneheaded things, hurting more than a couple of people in the process. And yet, it’s hard to hate him, as charismatic and likable as he is. Jack is a happy-go-lucky teenager in a 40-something body, his only true loyalty being to the satisfaction of his libido. The equally flawed Stephanie is also easy to feel sympathy for, despite her own poor judgment in the men she chooses, and in giving too much away too soon.

SIDEWAYS benefits tremendously not only from a sharp and funny script, but from fantastic performances from all four leads. Church is charming with his lopsided grin and devil may care attitude, and it’s easy to see why someone more conservative and uptight like Miles would choose to hang out with him – despite his (many) flaws, he’s a traveling party. Oh is incredibly sexy as the Harley-riding bad-girl bartender, and Stephanie is the kind of fantasy-girl who could easily make a man forget about his vows. Virginia Madsen is a pleasant surprise in this film, easily giving one of her best performances in at least a decade. She brings a sense of calm contemplation to the role, nicely offsetting Miles’ more neurotic tendencies.

As for Miles himself, Giamatti is back in top form, after the somewhat grating and forgettable performance in AMERICAN SPLENDOR. In Miles, he gives us a character that is full of quirks and flaws, but equally gifted in the realm of language and observation. The slow, smoldering courtship between he and Maya is incredibly convincing, and we want to see them find the kind of happiness that someone like Jack will probably never know – or care about knowing.

SIDEWAYS is a gold-medal vintage with a good nose and full-bodied flavor. Like a fine bottle of wine, its continual evolution is organic, never feeling forced or rushed, and is best savored among friends. It goes pretty well with meat and fish, too, if my post-movie meal of steak and shrimp fajitas is any indication.

link directly to this review at https://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10451&reviewer=258
originally posted: 12/07/04 12:34:11
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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

10/17/18 Dr. Lao A comedy so unfunny that only a professional critic would like it 2 stars
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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