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In Theaters: Sideways

Guest Author - Michelle Snow

Miles and Jack enjoy a good vintage in Sideways [Twentieth Century Fox]Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church) have been friends since rooming together as freshmen in college. Post-college, the two embarked on different life paths: for Jack, fame and fortune as an actor on soaps; for Miles, a career as a English teacher with a burning desire to be a published author. Though the two friends seem diametrically opposite, they both have a mountain of neuroses that need to be worked through.

As the movie begins, Jack is a week out from marriage. Miles, freshly divorced, decides to take his best friend on a final fling trip. He hopes to impart his passion for wine upon Jack. Jack hopes to impart passions of a different sort upon the women he meets along the way.

Miles and Maya bond over wine in Sideways [Twentieth Century Fox]Mid-way into the trip, Miles takes Jack to one of his favorite haunts, where he confesses he has feelings for the regular waitress, Maya (Virginia Madsen). Jack makes a connection with one of Maya's friends, Stephanie (Sandra Oh), and the two set up Miles and Maya for a double-date. This is more difficult than it seems, as both are gun-shy from recent bad relationships. And as Jack's web of lies deepens, all of the relationships become strained, even the friendship between Miles and Jack.

Sideways is a multi-level movie. On the surface, it's a buddy movie; a rites of passage adult road trip. Dig deeper and it's a look at the cause and effect that's a constant in our lives.

But the main charm of Sideways is that it is truly a movie about people. The good and the bad, without cliches or apologies. As the lies become exposed, happy endings do not magically appear. The verbal interaction is well-written and the actors deliver smoothly, without making it feel like they're script-reading. Even the wine dialogue is executed so that even the most novice drinker feels knowledgeable enough to crack open a bottle when they get home from the theater. Director Alexander Payne wisely allows the story to tell itself. Nothing feels forced or rushed.

Stephanie and Jack enjoy dinner and conversation in Sideways [Twentieth Century Fox]Much of the success of this movie is due to the quartet of leads. Giamatti takes what could be a caricature of a neurotic writer and imbues it with multi-toned edges. Miles is depressed about his life and divorce, but he's also passionate about wine and hopeful that something good will eventually happen to him. Church, familiar to most from his stint on the tv show, "Wings," somehow manages to make the caddish Jack likeable, even through the lies and deceit. As Maya, Madsen carefully echoes Mile's passion for wine and distrust of relationships, but instead of feeling sorry for herself, Madsen allows Maya to be optimistic that the changes she's made will be for the better. The firecracker of the group is Oh's portrayal of free-spirited wine barrista, Stephanie, who does everything in her life with the passion throttle on 11 -- even when it comes to releasing her anger.

This film is not going to impress those who feel it's not a movie worth seeing without big explosions or special effects. But if you give it a chance, you'll enjoy the adult slice-of-life glimpse that Sideways offers.


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The group takes in a wine seminar in Sideways [Twentieth Century Fox]
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh
Director: Alexander Payne
Rated: R [language, some strong sexual content and nudity]
Score: 9 out of 10

 

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Official website: foxsearchlight.com/sideways/

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Content copyright © 2014 by Michelle Snow. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Michelle Snow. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Trina Boice for details.

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