Jack (Thomas Haden Church) and his friend Miles (Paul Giamatti), set off for a week of Californian wine tasting and golfing, a week before Jack's wedding. The week doesn't go to plan for this odd couple, who have different views in love and lust. Miles is a wine buff, still smarting from his divorce of two years earlier, but happy-go-lucky Jack lives in the moment and is out for a final fling before settling down. The friendship is put under strain as they pull in opposite directions, and the wine, women and song routine turns into a complicated, painful dance.

A quiet film that shows the best and worst sides of private lives.

Sideways is another beautifully-written, 'small' film from this talented filmmaker who gave us the delicious teen satire Election (1999) and the stark, septuagenarian coming-of-age comedy, About Schmidt (2002).

Sideways is the third novel Payne - and co-writer Jim Taylor - have adapted for the screen. And for the first time he migrates from his home state of Nebraska (where Payne has set all of his films to date), to journey west deep into the wine country of California. Note: If you don't like wine, or people talking about wine, there's a good chance you're not going to like this movie.

Sideways is a thirty-something road movie set in California's vineyards, with American Splendor's Paul Giamatti shining in the plum role of Miles, a failed writer who's lost his way on the road of life. Ned and Stacey's Thomas Haden Church is equal parts annoying and hilarious as Miles' compulsively corrupt buddy Jack, trying to haul Miles out of his protracted depression. Miles on the other hand thinks he is the one doing the good deed here; Jack is about to be married and this road/wine trip is Miles' buck's party for his former college roommate. As we observe these two are chalk and cheese which makes for excellent entertainment and some high - albeit funny - drama.

Virginia Madsen (The Hot Spot) and Payne's real-life wife Sandra Oh (Guinevere) flesh out this four-hander as Maya and Stephanie, the perfect female counterparts to the blokes and this week of wine, women and contemplation. Madsen in particular handles the 'wine-talk' meticulously well, imbuing it with the rich, meaningful metaphors Payne - and the book's author Rex Pickett - intended. The scenes she shares with Giamatti are breathtaking. They slide into a beautiful synch of which only great performers are capable. Their characters are lonely, and, fanatics.

Sideways might sound like a self-indulgent 'bourgeois' nightmare, especially for anyone who has a distrust of the wine-swilling chattering classes. This is NOT one of those films. Sideways belongs more to the character-based, quiet films of 1970s American cinema, that show the best and worst sides of private lives. It is therefore a poetic film - and entertaining screwball comedy - about one's place in the world and the pain of romance. So drink it in.


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2 hours 6 min
In Cinemas 01 January 1970,
Thu, 01/01/1970 - 20