Why Alexander Payne’s Sideways deserves another look

Director Alexander Payne and actor Paul Giamatti reunite with the release of “ The leftoversnow is exactly the right time to go back to 2004 and review their first collaboration together. Sideways was a surprise hit that few expected, and like most blows, it’s the ones you don’t see coming that knock you out. It’s hard to follow up on a film like this About Schmidtbut Payne not only matched the magnitude of his sophomore performance, he surpassed it, creating one of the most underrated masterpieces of the early 2000s.

Update November 5, 2023: In honor of the release of The leftoversThis article has been updated to include more reasons why you should check it out Sideways.

The film was nominated for five Academy Awards and won Best Adapted Screenplay. Although Giamatti wasn’t nominated for Best Actor, it’s hard to argue that Sideways was the film that redefined his career and made him one of Hollywood’s most sought-after actors. The sensitivity with which Giamatti approaches this character is the same delicacy with which a master winemaker approaches winemaking. As Miles says, “Only someone who truly takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can bring it to its full potential.” That’s why Sideways is so great and why you should watch it.

A complicated friendship

Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church in Sideways
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The film follows Miles (Giamatti) and Jack (Haden Church) as they plan to spend Jack’s last week as a bachelor eating, drinking and playing golf in the Santa Ynez Valley wine region. Miles is an introverted wine expert who teaches middle school English, and Jack is an uninhibited former soap opera star with a fledgling acting career and a raging libido. They spend the week vacillating back and forth between insufferable, self-obsessed idiots and miserable, miserable idiots. There are moments that make you cringe and wonder how these two could possibly stand being together, and it’s in those moments that this film excels. It captures a side of friendship that most buddy comedies stay away from. It’s not always a hopeful “us against the world” proposition. It can be vulgar and melancholic, and it’s these moments that Payne captures so eloquently.

Miles is the type of person who puts 100% of himself into the things he loves, only to have it thrown back at him. When that happens, he becomes self-destructive and wants to crawl into a hole. Be it his manuscript, his failed marriage or the “ideal” bachelor party weekend He planned around be Interests, it’s a constant quest for control and when he doesn’t get it, he throws a tantrum that leaves him in despair. He constantly ponders whether he is good enough to be loved or talented enough to be the artist he wants to be; Instead of taking the necessary steps to find out, he chooses to be a sad, pathetic bastard crawls into a bottle. He is the coward that unfortunately most of us can be at times.

Related: Best Paul Giamatti Movies, Ranked

Jack is the opposite. He is brave enough to try anything, but he is not intelligent enough to think about whether he should do it or not. He can’t commit to anything, as evidenced by the fact that he spends the entire week cheating on his fiancée and constantly changes his mind about whether he even wants to marry her. He tricks himself into thinking he’s cooler than he is and is always trying to impress Miles. Miles sees through this and points it out to him at every opportunity. That’s what Jack needs, and he appreciates Miles for it because you can tell he really respects his intellect, even if he despises his incessant negativity.

Miles and Jack are clearly different. They were college friends but should have parted ways because of their different natures. But the film is peppered with moments that show how much the two care for each other, even though they are so different. Jack appreciates Miles’ intelligence and trusts him when it comes to food and wine, while Miles needs Jack’s attitude to come out of his shell.

Jack is caring and very kind to Miles’ mother, helping to bridge awkward gaps in conversation while Miles looks out for Jack no matter what happens, even if it puts his own life in danger. Friendship isn’t always about fixing someone. It’s about accepting someone for who they are and being there for them to help them pick up the pieces of their broken self. These two are the only people who understand how broken each other is, even if they don’t see it.

Sideways is very funny

Paul Giamatti in “Sideways” drinks wine
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Sideways was a major Oscar contender, but the film is also attractive enough to be a broad comedy for general audiences. The film walks a fine line between intimate character study and raunchy comedy. One moment the characters may be dramatically questioning their past relationships, while the next scene sees Miles breaking into the home of a couple who are having rather aggressive sex after the husband caught his wife cheating on Jack just hours before. Miles then grabs the wallet from the dresser and is chased down the street by the naked husband.

See also: Thomas Haden Church’s 10 Best Movies, Ranked by Rotten Tomatoes

Sideways was a crossover hit with critics and audiences, grossing $71 million at the domestic box office. For reference, Sideways performed better at the box office that year than the broader comedy of white chickenswhich was directed by Quentin Tarantino Kill Bill Vol. 2Guillermo del Toros Hell boyZack Snyder’s Dawn of the Deador the cult comedy classic Napoleon dynamite. Clearly the audience in 2004 was hungry Sideways.

Many industries have changed sideways

Sideways film
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A good bottle of wine ages better with time, and the same goes for some films. Sideways is a great example of this phenomenon. Although there is no doubt Sideways Although the film had a major impact on the wine industry, both in terms of visits to the Santa Ynez Valley and the massive rise of Pinot Noir while Merlot sales took a slump, the film’s impact is in the film itself and the various Stars can be felt in it.

Paul Giamatti was a respected character actor and his role as Harvey Pekar in American splendor The year before certainly brought him new success, but that was it Sideways this made him a sought-after commodity. In 2006, after Sideways, Giamatti played a major role in The illusionist And The lady and the water, where it was a selling point. Since then he has appeared in a number of popular films such as: The ideas of March, Save Mr. BanksAnd Straight from Compton. He even got to play a Spider-Man villain, Rhino The Amazing Spider-Man 2something he shares with his Sideways co-star Thomas Haden Church.

Sideways opened the same year Spider Man 2which meant there was some overlap in awards season (Spider Man 2 won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects that same year Sideways won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay), and that put Thomas Haden Church on the producer’s radar and he was eventually cast as the Sandman Spider Man 3. Church would appear in films like Simply A and now stars further Twisted metal. Another fun fact that connects Church and Giamatti. Aside from both playing Spider-Man villains, both voiced animated Vault Hunters in 2006. Church played a role Over the hedgewhile Giamatti played one The ant tyrant.

Finally, don’t forget Sandra Oh. Oh was married to Payne at the time she was there Sideways. The following year, she was cast as Christina Yang in the hit series Grey’s Anatomy. Since then she has played Eve Polastri Kill Eve and has lent her voice to many animated films including Over the moon, Raya and the Last DragonAnd To redden. Currently, audiences can listen on Prime Video Invincible and her latest film, Quiz Ladyon Hulu.

Sideways is almost twenty years old, but still feels as fresh as it did when it was first released in theaters. The cast is star-studded and with the release of The leftoversIt appears that Giamatti and Payne are back in the swing of things as the film is already generating Oscar buzz. Like a good cheese board with a good bottle of wine, why not pair it with that? The leftovers with Sideways?

Charles Jones

Charles Jones is a WSTNewsPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Charles Jones joined WSTNewsPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: charlesjones@wstnewspost.com.

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