Rating: R for nudity, sexual content and language
Run Time: 2 hours, 4 minutes
Alexander Payne is an auteur of vision shaded in dark and skewered tones. His fourth feature film (following Citizen Ruth, Election and About Schmidt) is a brilliant exploration of life, longing and second chances.
road trip be thy name. Longtime buddies Miles
(Paul Giamatti) and Jack (
Jack himself is hardly a poster-child for stability, his ostensibly happy-go-lucky ways masking an enormous fear of losing his freedom and an acting career that’s headed due south.
Miles is a self-proclaimed oenophile so the Santa Ynez Valley winery scene is
top of the agenda. Buellton here we come. The pair sip and spit to their
heart’s content and the winespeak flows like, well, wine. Color, clarity and density jockey with the
earnest (“good concentration, nice fruit”) and the absurd (“a soupcon of
asparagus and a flutter of
Their best shot is lusty pourer Stephanie (the talented Sandra Oh) and Hitching Post restaurant waitress cum philosopher Maya (Virginia Madsen). Dinner segues into a pathetic drink-and-dial for Miles (who can’t resist the drunken urge to contact his ex) and after-hours partying for all. Jack and Steph cut to the chase but Miles takes the gentlemanly approach to getting to know Maya, for whom he has long carried a torch.
Talk of prosaic Cabernets and Pinot’s lack of survival skills disguise sad-sack Miles’ deep-seeded feelings of insignificance and his propensity to hit the bottle harder than he should, disclosed with a natural blend of humor and pathos courtesy Payne’s top-notch script.
bluesy piano score sustains a fluent pace and resonant storyline. Giamatti,
Oh is terrific, but it’s Madsen who glows with a luminous intelligence and warm sensuality that matches the story’s mature profundity. Her expressive soliloquy on her innate connection to the living and breathing life of wine is a revelation.
Easily one of the best films of the year, Sideways gives great nose.