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Movie Review: Sideways

Alternate Title: L'Chaim

Story: Like a fine wine (you knew I was going to mention wine, didn't you)? this film just gets better as goes along. If you like road trip, buddy type films that also has great acting, full bodied characters and terrific writing then this film has got your name on the label.

Director Alexander Payne (Election and About Schmidt) has given all film lovers a treat. With his co-creator, Jim Taylor, based on the book by Rex Pickett we meet two very different guys as they embark on a week's trip up the California coast to play golf and taste wine before one of them gets married.

The trip symbolizes a last hurrah of sorts for both of the men. Their adventure morphs into something that neither of them expects and we, the audience are the winners.

It is a funny, poignant film about friendship, heartbreak, life, sex, possibility and redemption. Carpe diem!

Acting: Paul Giamatti is brilliant as Miles, the wine tasting depressive. His performance is nuanced, complex and developed. He has that 'every man' quality that will ensure a long lasting career that I look forward to watching. Thomas Hayden Church (TV's Wings) is simply terrific as Jack, the semi-washed up actor, soon to be married pal. Both characters work well together and I believed their relationship. Virginia Madsen had finally broken her too long string of B roles as the usual floozy, hooker or trashy trailer queen. She is wonderful as Maya, Miles' love-interest. Sandra Oh (TV's Arliss) as the wine pouring Stephanie is wonderful as well. This film's ensemble cast were perfect in their respective roles. I could not imagine anyone doing it better.

Predilection: I love road films -- from Easy Rider, Thelma and Louise to the most recent Motorcycle Diaries.

Critters: Lots of taxidermy critters (alas).

Food: Wine, of course was the main focus but lots of good food was consumed as well. I was both hungry and thirsty when I left the theater.

Visual Art: The interiors of each characters abode was decorated with appropriate wall hangings once we knew the characters.

Opening Titles: Stark black background with white type.

Theater Audience: I was in the secret balcony of the local Regal multiplex with my buddy. Three other people found out about the balcony so I guess it is not such a secret anymore. We could hear lots of laughter coming from downstairs during the film but I have no idea how many people were in the audience.

Drift Range: I did not drift at all except an occasional memory to my many road trips up and down that California corridor from San Diego through to the Santa Barbara area and Solvang.

Predictability Level: There were a few surprises that delighted me.

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Yes. I think Paul Giamatti deserves an Oscar nomination for this role.

Nit Picking: No nits to pick or pieces of cork to pick out of the wine.

Big Screen or Rental: Big screen for sure. For some other Paul Giamatti films check out: American Splendor, Big Fat Liar, Duets, Man on the Moon, Cradle Will Rock, Safe Men, The Negotiator, Saving Private Ryan and The Truman Show.

Length: A few minutes over two hours.