If ever there was such a thing as a “guy flick,” Sideways is it. You’ve heard the basic premise before: there’s just one week left before the wedding; the groom takes off with his best buddy and heads out for a week of frolic and debauchery before he must come back home to his fiancé and settle into a life of marriage that is sure to be confining. He comes back having lived it up, with a few scars to boot, like a war hero returning home after a long battle abroad. At the wedding, the two men share a knowing look with each other, confirming that somehow they’ve gotten away with something, like two little naughty schoolboys who escape a much deserved detention.
If you can make it far enough through the movie to get beyond the film’s main story line, you’ll find a romantic plot that develops between Miles (Paul Giamatti), an eighth-grade schoolteacher not yet over his divorce two years past, and Maya (Virgina Madsen), a waitress, also divorced, who works at a restaurant Miles visits regularly on his frequent trips to California wine country. This plot is surely the one responsible for making the film winner of two Golden Globe awards and five Academy Award nominations. This story line, like the fine wines so often mentioned in the film, is rich, full-bodied, a little fruity, and well worth enduring a little dirt to find.
Sideways is a good film to watch before making your own trip to wine country in the MidAtlantic region, including spots in Virginia and Pennsylvania where wine making dominates. Wine and travel play a very important part in the film, both requiring almost as much versatility as the actors themselves. You’ll get a brief introduction in how to taste wine like a connoisseur, and you’ll experience the ups and downs of road-trip travel with a friend. You may even develop ideas for fun activities to pursue while on your trip.
Wine country isn’t just a great place for making wine; it encompasses a community of people. When you’ve had your fill of wine, there are golf courses, fine restaurants, and bed and breakfasts to explore. There are a multitude of places where you can just go to relax.
Though the story lines presented in Sideways are at times complex and thought-provoking, as a film strictly for the purposes of entertainment and escape, Sideways falls by the wayside. Love stories can carry an audience only so far, and they are often used in films that would otherwise sag if not for the interest fashioned by the tension that sex and love create.
The end of the film leaves you thinking about new beginnings on the verge of unfolding. You’ll wonder whether things will work out, now that you know what fruit the men have reaped in their past. Perhaps the film could have been a bit better if its end had been its start.
MidAtlanticUSA Entertainment Rating: 3
MidAtlanticUSA Travel Rating: 5