Sideways (2004)

Genre(s): Comedy / Drama
Fox Searchlight || R - 127 minutes - $19.98 || April 5, 2005
Reviewer: Brian Oliver || Posted On: 2005-04-23


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.:: F I L M ::.
The Film

S P E C I A L
.: F E A T U R E S :.

Special Features

A U D I O &
.:: V I D E O ::.

Audio and Video

.:: O V E R A L L ::.
Overall
.::MOVIE INFORMATION::.
Director: Alexander Payne
Writer(s): Rex Pickett (novel), Alexander Payne (screenplay) & Jim Taylor (screenplay)
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh


Theatrical Release Date: January 21, 2004


.::DVD INFORMATION::.
Supplemental Material:
  • Actors' Commentary
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Behind-the-Scenes Featurette
  • Theatrical Trailer


Technical Information:
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Widescreen (1.85)
  • English (Dolby Digital 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 2.0), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Spanish

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.::THE FILM::.

IMAGE

One of the most beloved and critically acclaimed films of 2004, Sideways is a great little drama-comedy (with a dash of road trip) that, although never living up to its high expectations, is still a joy to watch... again and again. What this quiet movie also displays is that Paul Giamatti was screwed out of an Oscar nomination.

Besides Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church has grown as an actor within a span of this one film. Before this, his major achievement came from the popular early 90s show, "Wings", but here, he portrays such a loveable a--hole like Jack to perfection.

My feelings all in all for the movie hasn't changed much, though I think I did enjoy it more this time around so perhaps, like wine, in a year or so this will be the masterpiece everyone says it was. Then again, maybe nothing will change.

Original Review:
Sideways at first, looks like a typical buddy road movie about two old friends, Miles and Jack (Giamatti and Church) who spend a week traveling to wine vinyards, golf courses and the like for a week before Jack is set to get hitched. Miles and Jack's ideas of a fun time, however, are different. Miles wants to sniff the wine and worry about if his new novel will get a publisher. Jack, on the other hand, wants to party and get laid as much as possible before the wedding (for those under 25, think Stifler from American Pie, but more under control and less annoying here).

While it looks like a road movie, under the surface, it's a character-driven plot of Miles who is going through a mid-life crisis (more realistically than seen in most other films). He's been divorced for two years (hasn't been with anyone since) and finds out that his ex has recently re-married. While in a small town (where he frequently visits), Jack manages push Miles into going on a double date. Jack's date, Stephanie (Oh) works at a winery while Miles', Maya (Madsen), is a waitress at the restaurant he goes to regularly when in town. There are some semi-bizarre events that happen as Miles soon realizes that his entire life has been nothing up to this point. Jack, though, questions whether he should even get married as he's soon involved in Stephanie's life.

While Sideways certainly is an excellent character study (in the same vain as director Payne's About Schmidt), I found it difficult to identify with either of them. The situations they're in are very funny (and even hilarious in terms of one scene), but in the end it never comes together. With a two-hour running time, Alexander Payne has to hope the audience has some kind of connection with these characters. Since I'm only 24 and not really close to being in a mid-life crisis (at least I hope not...), I noticed that the people in the audience I saw it with really seemed to understand the message; and the majority of them were easily over the age of 40. And I think this is where Sideways will fail since there is indeed a generation gap that won't get why this is so funny or understand the importance of the message.

Although I didn't quite grasp the message of the film, I do appreciate the acting abilities from its two stars. First, Paul Giamatti has the knack for playing the kind of Woody Allen, neaurotic characters. But different from Allen, his character quirks begin quietly and by the end manage to come out in force (but still not obvious). Even in some of the more mainstream flicks like Paycheck or The Truman Show (in a much smaller role), he still manages to stand out for all the good reasons to stand out. He's not overly annoying and he's not winy either. In many of his roles, he stays under the radar yet still gives a solid performance.

Thomas Haden Church, though, well, I don't know much about him other than that he was that guy on "Wings". For Sideways, he could've played the role of the big a-hole part but even though Jack is really a scumbag underneath, his wild ways combined with Church's comedic timing works well not only in the film as a whole, but opposite Miles.

Overall, Sideways was not the best movie of 2004 as some critics have said. Yes, there are some great performances (I agree with nominations in those cases), but because of my age, I don't think I fully understood or appreciated what the movie was trying to say, which means if you're under the age of 30, you may also not truly "get" this movie. But for all the other aspects (dialogue and acting), this is a great film.



.::SPECIAL FEATURES::.

On the surface the Sideways dvd has little special features to it... and in all honesty, the features are certainly limited, but what is there is quite good.

First and best is the commentary track from Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, who makes a new and fantastically funny listen once you've seen it. Much like the movie, Giamatti and Church come across like old college buddies just sitting around a table and chatting it up, recounting their tales on the set. Thankfully, there was little butt kissing about other cast and/or crew, something that is a BIG plus for me and pet peeve when it does happen. Absolutely one of the best commentaries I have listened to and perhaps even better than the film itself.

The disc features seven deleted scenes accompanied by text from director Alexander Payne explaining why they were deleted. Although these scenes were taken out for the usual reasons (pacing, boring, etc), they are interesting in nature including one where "Miles hits a dog", a strange sequence where after he runs over the dog, he goes into the woods trying to find it (via the cries of pain). Personally, I am glad this scene did not make it as it surely would've turn my mood sour against the movie as a whole.

Next is the standard behind-the-scenes featurette with some cast and crew interviews but primarily just showing the goings-on during the making of the film. Is it essential to watch? Not really, but it's not all bad and it was what I expected so no harm done.

There is also the obligatory theatrical trailer.

Despite the lack of special features, the commentary alone is well worth the asking price, so don't hesitate.



.::AUDIO & VIDEO::.

IMAGE

Sideways has your typical Dolby Digital 5.1 mix and for the most part sound just fine. However, when it comes to the more quiet flicks, I usually leave the surround sound off, but if you there are several people watching or you have poor speakers on your TV, then using it won't hurt. The best part is the great picture quality showcasing Alexander Payne's wonderful color textures.



.::OVERALL::.

Sideways is not a film for everyone and, when I first saw it, I wasn't so sure I was in love with it either. However, upon a second viewing I can see why people have fallen for it so much. I guess I compare it to Lost in Translation, another quiet film that many (and I do mean MANY) people hated. Both movies have a certain, I don't know, closeness to it, like a security blanket. You can't help it but I get so involved watching these unique characters that I forget that I'm watching a movie at all.