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Sideways

A Piquant Bouquet

Alexander Payne's (About Schmidt, Election) latest film Sideways goes down smooth and has a powerful aftertaste that leaves one contemplating the complexity and subtle nuances of this excellent film.

Payne's film follows the sideways journey of Miles (Paul Giamatti, American Splendor) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church, 3000 Miles To Graceland, "Wings") through the wine country a week prior to Jack's impending marriage. What initially starts out as an extended (and inebriated) wine tour evolves into a complex and comedic exploration of the psyches of two flawed men confronted with the often disappointing reality of their existence.

Paul Giamatti turns in a performance rivaling his stellar turn in American Splendor. Giamatti brilliantly embodies Miles, showing the audience a complex character rife with neuroses and conflicts, but simultaneously possessing a warm, loving, and endearing side.

Juxtaposed against the angst ridden Miles is the charming, fun loving, and unquestioning Jack. Church does a good job of capturing the essence of his character. Jack's lightheartedness is refreshing in contrast to the doom and gloom of Miles, but it is also coupled with a shallow vapidity that ultimately makes him a somewhat reprehensible character. While Miles and Jack are close friends, it's evident both have distinctly dissimilar palates.

Alexander Payne beautifully interweaves his love of wine into Sidweays. Miles and Jack come to personify two specific varietals. Sensitive, complicated, and difficult, Miles perfectly captures the challenging Pinot Grigio. Rich, hearty, and easy to grow, Jack embodies the Cabernet Sauvignon.

Watching Sideways is akin to uncorking a perfectly crafted bottle of wine. It's the kind of palate pleasing experience that comes along infrequently. Quaffing is requisite.


Stars: 4 out of 5