a/perture cinema, the Official Movie Sponsor of The Less Desirables, presents The Less Desirables Movie of the Week, Sideways (2004), starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh.
Per IMDb: “Two men reaching middle age with not much to show but disappointment embark on a week-long road trip through California’s wine country, just as one is about to take a trip down the aisle.”
Miles (Giamatti), an unhappy English teacher, failed author and self-proclaimed wine
©Fox Searchlight Pictures
connoisseur, takes his college roommate, Jack (Church), an actor who has passed his prime, on a week-long bachelor party through the Californian wine country. Jack’s to be married to Christine (Alysia Reiner – Figueroa on Orange is the New Black) a wealthy socialite but he’s not sure he’s ready to go through with it. Miles takes him to Santa Barbara County to the area that he is quite familiar with and is known, and liked, by the locals, including Maya (Madsen), a Graduate school student who is also a waitress at The Hitching Post, and a Stephanie (Oh) a wine pourer at one of the wineries Miles frequents.
Jack tells Miles that he’s going to get lucky before he gets married and ends up starting an affair with Stephanie as Miles is pushed upon Maya. He does like Maya but has a hard time with Jack’s affair with Stephanie because it’s both wrong and it’s screwing up his plans for the week. All the while, Miles is still somewhat hung up on his ex-wife, Victoria (Jessica Hecht – Susan, Ross’ ex-wife’s lesbian lover in Friends) and is torn up to find out she’s remarried. That plays in his mind as does Jack’s infidelity and his struggle to strike up a moment or more with Maya. One thing leads to another and the whole situation blows up. How and why? You’ll have to watch to find out.
I haven’t been to California’s wine country, but I really want to go. I want to, especially now that I have gained a new fondness for red wine and seeing the beautiful countryside in this film. Miles talks frequently and passionately about Pinot Noir in the film while pretty much taking a dump on Merlot. I don’t have a preference there, but I like jammy. I don’t know enough about either to know if they’re that way. However, the film did pique my interest on it. I’ll have to check more out. Incidentally, some reports said that after the film was released Merlot sales dropped and Pinot Noir sales jumped. If it had any kind of impact like that, then… “wow!” I say.
This is the first film that I can remember seeing Paul Giamatti in that he wasn’t playing a skeez. I found it hard to not see him as one, which in some ways hampered my ability to feel sorry for him, but I did anyway. Don’t take that wrong. I love his acting and enjoy him in films and he plays those skeez parts quite well. But, I did get over that after a bit and did feel sorry for him; the way that was supposed to go. You’re to get annoyed at Jack for being the a-hole and feel sorry for Miles. That’s the human side of all of this. You pull for Miles to just get with it about Maya and let go of the ex and you get annoyed when he doesn’t. You keep waiting on Stephanie to find out about Jack’s upcoming nuptials and hope that she beats the shite out of him. That’s the human element, again.
This film was one of the 400 nominees for the AFI‘s 100 Years… 100 Movies distinction. That’s why I watched it. It’s only available via Netflix‘s DVD.com or renting it from Amazon Prime (although with a Starz subscription, you can get it free). I have owned a copy since it came out, but never got around to watching it until now. It was nominated for five Academy Awards: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Church), Supporting Actress (Madsen) and Best Writing – Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium… whatever that means. Oddly enough, the only one it won for was that last one. Scorp shrugs.
Rotten Tomatoes has it rated at 96% Fresh but only 78% on the Audience Score. IMDb has it at 7.5 stars out of 10. I will say that I enjoyed the film. I thought it was good on its own merits but I can’t for the life of me figure out how it was good enough to be considered one of the best of all time. There are plenty of films that aren’t on that list that I’d consider for that list over this one. Again, I enjoyed it and rate it 4.25 out of 5 stars. Have you seen it? What did you think? What would you like to read/hear me review?
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“You know, the day you open a ’61 Cheval Blanc… that’s the special occasion.” – Maya