Alexander Payne, Sideways (2004)

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Movies
August 12th, 2005 • 10:36 am

A good part of the charm of this movie is that the lead characters are played by lesser-known actors. (The IMDB reminded me that Paul Giamatti was in some movies I have seen, but I didn’t remember while watching him in Sideways.) Because they are relatively unknown, there is a pleasantly extended period of uncertainty about the kinds of characters they are actually playing.

It helps, because really, when you think about it, the characters — especially Jack — are rather excessively caricatured, which ultimately reduces the actual artistic value of the movie. But as long as you are not quite sure about these two characters and how realistic they are, the movie has its charms.

It certainly has some very funny moments, especially with Jack goofing around. And Virginia Madsen plays a very lovely Maya.

The end is disappointingly predictable, and I am not sure the movie will have done much to help convince the beer- and rum-guzzling North American public that wine lovers are anything but snobs — but Sideways is an enjoyable Californian excursion just the same. There’s nothing unforgettable about it, but it’s refreshing and does give you a sense that California is indeed a rather unique place in the world. (I have never been there.)

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