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"Aren't we getting too old for this
Review written by: Alex Sandell
There are many different kinds of fans. Some become extremely hostile, if you don't agree with them (Star Wars and Lord of the Rings' fans fit this bill), others do their best to try and convince you that your initial opinion regarding a film was wrong (The Seven Samurai and Memento fans belong here) and some just have really bad taste and secretly know it, so, at best, they swear at you, say "yo momma!" and disappear for eternity (see fans of Fat Albert, Garfield and The Fast and the Furious). Unfortunately for me, fans of Sideways fall into the "extremely hostile" category. This movie is a turd, with half a champagne flute full of vintage comedy.
Sideways may be the first film to be praised, not for being a good film, but due to alcoholics enjoying watching it almost as much as they enjoy attending an uppity wine tasting. The pedestrian comedy is nothing more than the fourth American Pie, featuring adults and wine, instead of adolescents and beer. When a close up of Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) fondling grapes for 30 seconds appears on the screen, I could only roll my eyes and pray for the damn thing to be over. Before you scream, "YOU JUST DON'T GET IT! ALEXANDER PAYNE'S WRITING AND DIRECTING IS ABOVE YOUR HEAD!" I would like to point out that I gave his last film, About Schmidt a "10" (on a scale of 1-10) and gave the same perfect score to his film prior to that, Election.
In Sideways, Payne stumbles like an inebriate and falls like an alcoholic. Sure, there are things to like here. Payne's humor is tarnished in spots, but it sometimes manages to shine through the bleary eyed blur that is the rest of the movie. It's just that the director seemed to have only a few original ideas for this film and he used them all up in the first 30 minutes of this movie, and then, to fill time, repeated them over and over again.
Miles Raymond is a 40-something teacher still hoping for a successful career in writing. His sidekick, Jack (Thomas Haden Church) is also in his forties and is hoping for nothing other than getting himself laid during the week before his marriage. The two go on a week long wine tasting (or, in Miles' case "wine guzzling") tour to drink and be merry (and get boned). Or something like that.
What really happens is Miles steals money from his mother (for absolutely no reason, other than to show what an irredeemable character he is), Jack spits out one juvenile sex joke after another (throughout the entire movie), and bangs a chick (throughout most of the movie). The majority of critics praise Sideways like it's the second coming of The Godfather. Trying to figure out why the critics out there like it so much, I came to only one conclusion: holding in their laughter during films like American Pie and Eurotrip was becoming painful. Sort of like holding in a fart, after going out for Mexican on a date and later cuddling with the woman you shared your bean burrito with.
For a long time, "mature" critics had to pretend that jokes about penises (they show some chubby guy's dick in the film) and women violently beating up men weren't funny. Now, being that many of the characters in the film are about the same age as the majority of film critics watching the movie, they (the critics) can giggle, snort and laugh like hyenas on Nitrous Oxide. There were moments where I admit to laughing; the scene where Miles lists the varying aromas in his glass of wine, as a bewildered Jack looks on like a confused puppy dog, and later reveals that he was chewing gum during the tasting, was particularly funny. But these moments were either too few or too many. The comedy in this film is either overdone or ignored. There is hardly any in-between.
The other reason I've sensed people enjoy this film is because of the wine, itself. I think the Academy should just give the Best Actor award to a bottle of Pinot and be done with it. I've read review after review praising the fact that some overly expensive wine was mentioned in the film. What's next? Critical acclaim for a movie showing a limited edition iPod? Another thing people seem to like is Miles comparing himself to a grape. Ooh ... how profound (and predictable). The grape needs lots of attention. If it gets it, it matures into the best wine around, or something. This is quite possibly the most juvenile metaphor to hit the screen since the first Revenge of the Nerds.
Of course Maya (Virginia Madsen) -- Miles' semi-love interest in the film -- takes it all hook, line and sinker. Not only that, she lets Miles drive home drunk, but not before explaining, in hideously boring detail, why wine is important to her! I'm sorry, kids, but I've met plenty of victims of drunk drivers and there is nothing amusing about this. But the wine tasters out there must love it more than sex with the first virgin they seduced with Rohypnol. I have to admit that Madsen did a decent job acting and that I'm a fan of Giamatti (it's a shame he'll most likely win awards for this and not for his amazing role in American Splendor). That certainly doesn't mean that I have to admit to liking this by-the-numbers "comedy."
Even Thomas Haden Church does a good job, with what he's given. None of the actors are worth paying $8.00 to see this film for, though. If you're looking for character development (the lack of character development may be the saddest aspect of the movie), a decent plot or even a comedy to keep you laughing, do not look to Sideways. Alexander Payne, one of my favorite writers and directors, has turned to the "elite" side of the Force. His newest movie is pompous, reckless and nearly a complete waste of time. It's a shame this is the film he's finally being fully recognized for. Like a $3.00 bottle of wine -- it may taste fruity going down, but when it comes back up you'll realize it wasn't worth the Technicolor yawn (or the horrible migraine).
Agree? Disagree? Have questions? Comments? Email this critic at firstname.lastname@example.org
RECENT REVIEWS (click here to see ALL films reviewed in the last three months):
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COMING SOON - Reviews of Sideways, The Phantom of the Opera and, just because it's been requested more than ANY other movie yet to be reviewed on this site, Hellboy (so who says I don't listen to my readers?)!
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