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2004 Holiday Movie Reviews
Reviews of Sideways
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Sideways

The work of writer/director Alexander Payne has begun to grow on me. He and Wes Anderson have taken a position on opposite ends of the same spectrum. Payne elevates the mediocrity of normalcy to dramatic levels with subtle wit, whereas Anderson looks at the same normal world through a heavy-handed dysfunctional lens.

This time around, Payne moves out of Omaha and into the state of California where we're given a peek inside the lives of Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church). Miles, on the one hand, is dark, intellectual, and prone to depression. But he is counterbalanced by Jack's lighthearted, yet slightly amoral persona. Giamatti and Church turn in top notch performances by turning deeply flawed individuals into likable characters.

"Sideways" takes its time introducing us to all the main characters and the premise of this story. Payne's direction, however, manages to turn some extended sequences of lengthy dialogue into interesting character development, without too much contrived exposition. Ultimately that's the appeal of a Payne feature; You actually feel like your watching people live out their lives in front of you.

Miles is made sympathetic through the folly of his own actions because we understand him. In fact, many of us are Miles. We aren't told to like him, we just do. And it is the patient building of character and scene that make the third act so tragically funny. I even found myself really wanting things to work out for both men.

Good film!

Reviewer: Matt Belcher of Minnetonka, MN (December 13, 2004)
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Sideways - A Rare Straight Shooter

I loved this movie. I think it should get the Best Picture award hands down. I also believe this film won't receive the recognition it deserves simply because it is so human, complex, and thoughtful. Nobody dies in this film. The mosters live within the characters and the explosions that ignite are between individuals and not cars, buildings, or airplanes.

The script is tight, the acting clean, and the direction exact. Because of this, the film doesn't have a prayer in the current culture of people-pleasing American films.

I give Sideways a strong recommendation. Also, if you go, have a good bottle of wine waiting for you when you get home.

Reviewer: Michael Kennedy of Minneapolis, MN (December 13, 2004)
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Sideways

Loved this little "buddie" movie, and loved the locale! Some parts pretty "wild" but you always loved the characters, though you could shake them half the time!

Reviewer: Kay Bach of Edina, MN (December 11, 2004)
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Sideways

This film is a great exploration of human relationships. It exposes both the foibles and endearing aspects of two long-time friends while educating the audience about the wonderful Napa Valley wine circuit. I laughed and groaned throughout the movie. The fact that I actually discussed the film with people days after I viewed it, propels me to consider it worthy of promotion.

Reviewer: Anne Mleziva of Robbinsdale, MN (December 9, 2004)
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Finally, a graduate-level film

This film was a sublime statement on potential greatness hampered by personal inhibition. My husband and I stumbled out of Sideways half giddy, half crushed, as though we'd just been laughing at a funeral. Paul Giamatti's Miles was brilliantly done; the film takes its time in revealing what at first appears as pathetic and then later becomes endearing. The supporting actors were additionally wonderful; Virginia Madsen was luminous as Myra; you can feel her slipping beneath the surface of Miles' personal blockade. Thomas Haden Church turns a two-dimensional cad into a lifeline and cheerleader for Miles. (Much discussion has been had about how a friendship between these two could exist, but I think it's perfectly clear. Jack needs moral grounding, and Miles needs to break free frm himself. They balance each other out.) One leaves Sideways contemplating "what might of been" had circumstances been different, not just for Miles but for ourselves.

Reviewer: Jennifer Haugh of Minneapolis, MN (December 8, 2004)
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Not what it's cracked up to be!

We went to Sideways based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews, but we found it a big disappointment. We enjoy foreign and independent films (Lagoon Theatre-type stuff), and we came out of the theatre dumbfounded by the glowing praise heaped on this film. Why? Where is the character development? What is the emotional connection I'm supposed to have with these two men, with one of them a stereotypical "shallow Hollywood actor"? The film offers scant intellectual substance. The female characters, and a few well-scripted scenes gave the movie what little spark it had. The acting was excellent, but that (and a few poetic wine analogies) can't carry a whole movie. In sum, highly overrated!

Reviewer: Nancy Dowling of Burnsville, MN (December 6, 2004)
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Sideways - A hilarious rollercoaster ride!

Sideways was an awesome and superb film that loosily sticks to the book, which didnt really matter since I still loved it. Paul Giamatti was a tour de force and has made an even more jump of great acting from American Splendor. THomas Haden Church was excellent all the same along with Virginia Madsen who was awesome as Paul Giamattis Lover. Sandra Oh from under the tuscan sun is a sweetheart and I absolutely love her. The scenery in the film is magical and majestic which truly sould me how California is away from fame and cities. In the picture, I could truly sense a connection between all the actors in the film which made me think as though it were actual real life because of how well they did at this. The direction and dialogue was witty and hilarious and Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, and Virginia Madsen diserve some sort of high up award and oscar nomination because I cant get over how great they did in this film and how much I loved it.

Reviewer: chandy clemens of Bloomington, MN (December 5, 2004)
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Whiny Winey

Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor have again skillfully created a small world victimized by one miserable character and his flaws. Beloved by critics, this well constructed adaptation is a snapshot week about how Miles, a failed writer and anal retentive loser, gets a really great girl.

Imperfect humans like Miles, crippled by their own strain of decency, rain negativity on other unsuspecting characters, miraculously reform, then snap back like rubber bands to their own counter-productive ways. Judging by both its critical and popular acclaim, SIDEWAYS is indeed a success in this human work-in-progress "casting away of crutches" genre.

However, a 124 (albeit well-executed) minutes about dysfunctional relationships is not worth my $8.00. I'd rather go out and eat nails. What did I like? I liked Miles' monologue on coaxing a finicky Pinot Noir grape into a world class wine. However, I've drunk Pinot Noir. Pinot Noir is one of my favorite varietals, but to me, Miles is no Pinot Noir.

Reviewer: Caliann Lum of Minneapolis, MN (December 5, 2004)
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Buddy movie for people who love wine

This is a combination of the best of the buddy/road trip tradition in movies. Even better, the actors actually act. They create believeable in-depth characters for the viewer can develop sympathy.

Oh. And if you are a wine buff, you will be in wine appreciation heaven.

Reviewer: Eliot Axelrod of Bloomington, MN (December 3, 2004)
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Now here's a real Alexander the Great

Paul Giammati is heartbreaking and infuriating as a sadsack would-be novelist and wine enthusiast. He hits the road for a pre-wedding vino-tasting tour with his best buddy. They meet some ladies, get in some fights and drink a little too much. It's funny, it's painful to watch sometimes and it rings true. What more can adults ask for in a film?




Reviewer: Stephanie Curtis of St. Paul, MN (November 30, 2004)
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