Feeling lukewarm about a movie engulfed in favorable buzz is an
uncomfortable berth for a movie reviewer.
“Sideways” is funny; it has a good script and fine photography; and
surely few actors have played two losers with more inspiration that Paul
Miles (Paul Giamatti) has decided to give his best friend Jack (
The Best Man’s bubble bursts quickly as the groom reveals a mind and
body focused only on sex. Forget
the golf clubs; Jack wants a woman. They
find two of them in a bar. Maya
(Virginia Madsen) warms to Miles, the cerebral wine lover who is too stuck in
his tracks to respond, and Stephanie (Sandra Oh) wants sex with Jack – as much
and as often as possible.
Miles is a writer without a book sale.
Jack is a failed actor who is about to marry a rich woman. Paul Giamatti, hunched, with arms straight down at his sides,
wrings his laughs from his seriousness. Lecturing
Jack without letup, he watches his friend’s head swivel after every woman who
walks by, and wants desperately to grab him by the ears and say, “Listen to
Director Alexander Payne mocks the pretensions of wine lovers with an
assortment of darts: “Only the
growers can coax it into its fullest expression.”
The landscape of this movie fairly drowns in wine.
And every night, the two miserable fellows return to some seedy motel
room covered with birch veneer and black flowered bedspreads.
Watch for one wonderful touch of Bush and Rumsfeld on the grungy TV.
Granted that Giamatti is a master at playing a “no mail, no messages”
kind of guy and that Church is a believable sleazeball of a womanizer, but what
is there to root for in these guys? At
one point Miles scribbles a birthday card to his mother as he crosses the
parking lot, hands her some supermarket flowers, and slips upstairs to steal her
money. Jack is filling his last
week with all the sex he can get. Neither
the theft nor the betrayal brings any repercussions, comic or otherwise.
As much as I laughed at some of director Payne’s clever setups, I kept
hoping for an imaginative comeuppance for two unpleasant guys in need of at
least comic accountability. You’ll
laugh, as I did, and you may or may not love it.
Copyright (c) Illusion
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