Film Nerd’s choice: Sideways
Director: Alexander Payne
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh
Synopsis: Two friends head off to wine country for a week for a buck’s party. Neither is really a shining example of humanity, one is a failed writer (Giamatti), and the other (Hayden Church) is seeking meaningless sex before he ties the knot. What ensues is an often amusing tale of drinking, relationships, and life.
There are many examples of brilliant independent cinema out there, many examples being from the creative stylings of luminaries such as Tarantino and Rodriguez. It is another incredibly difficult category to come up with a favourite for. After some self-reflection however, I realised there was for me one independent film that as a comedy not only appeals to my sense of humour, but also appeals to another interest on mine I have rarely if ever touched on in this blog… wine.
Prior to seeing this film, I knew Hayden Church as Ned from Ned & Stacey, and Giamatti I had seen little of, but had heard a few rave reviews about… reviews that time has well and truly proven to be justified. The two leads do share a chemistry, which if anything gives credence to the friendship which exists despite the two having completely disparate personalities. Giamatti’s Miles is, for lack of a better term, a wine wanker who has depressive tendencies, the latter related to his failed marriage and his just as unsuccessful writing career. Hayden Church’s Jack is much more successful and laid back, but, given he is seeking to get his rocks off on the week before his wedding, is not really the type of guy that spends a lot of time considering consequences.
Each of them experience romance over the course of the week. Miles has an opportunity to spend time with Maya, whom he has long admired on past wine trips and whom herself is recently single. Jack gets the opportunity he seeks for some “last week of freedom” with Stephanie (Oh), a close friend of Maya’s. As supporting players, these two ladies are brilliant, and ideal prospective partners for each in personality.
This review perhaps does not adequately reflect the humour in the film, which is in many instances subtle, with a few bigger comic moments thrown in. It is an intelligent comedy, and there is some extra situational comedy associated with wine tastings and the like. Those familiar with wine trips and tastings can smile and nod, whereas everyone else can enjoy these moments laughing AT the types that enjoy such trips (I am firmly in the former category, I must admit.
Some may argue there are better independent films, that have greater impact or shock value. For me however, it is a film that speaks to a pass time I enjoy, and even introduced me to the subtle joys that come with savouring a pinot noir. Come into it expecting nothing, and you may come out with a new favourite pic!!
5 stars out of 5.