Saturday, January 29, 2005

You've gone all Sideways, man!

Shannon and I went to the Carmike to see this one on its opening night. We chose to go to the Carmike instead of the Grand because the Carmike gets indie pics (we saw the great "The Whale Rider" there last year) and we want to encourage this behavior. Besides, I find the kids that work there to be gracious (read: they laughed at my jokes) and helpful. I even killed some time waiting for the movie to start by talking to the ticket taker and it turns out he and I shared the same distaste for pseudoscience dressed up as science by using the word "quantum" (I'm looking at you, "What the (bleep) Do We Know".) And the stadium renovations have been completed so they can now compete with the big boy on Johnston St.

As for the movie, well, its great, certainly one of the best of 2004. And as opposed to many other comedies that are front loaded with laughs, this one actually gets funnier (and sadder) as the movie goes along. I think many movies lose their comedic steam as they progress because they start with situational gags and then have to drive the plot forward with more traditional exposition. But since Sideways is character driven, its not the situations per se that are funny, but the characters response to them.

Paul Giamatti is the slope shouldered antihero for our time (if you have not seen "American Splendor" you are missing the best movie of the past five years). Put upon and miserable, but not misunderstood, he is somehow both cynical and hopeful. He can make the most pathetic character sympathetic. And oh, is he ever pathetic as Miles the insufferable asshole oenophile in Sideways. As a struggling novelist, he's a very successful drunk. His love and knowledge of wine both inform and deform his life, work and relationships. But every misstep he makes is understandable and indeed logical. What else could he have done but to follow his life down this unfortunate path? I have to admit, every time Giamatti made me cringe in this movie, it was because I had done the exact same thing.

The real surprise here is Thomas Haden Church as the Jeff to Giamatti's Mutt. Church plays Jack, a fading ex-soap actor who doesn't mind trading on his d-list has-beenism in the pursuit of sex. His wedding is the reason for the week long road trip that the two college buddies are embarking on, and Jack, pussyhound that he is, wants to make sure he has as many flings as possible before getting married (although it seems that the wedding probably won't slow him down much). Church (Lowell in the forgetable sitcom "Wings" and Ned on the forgotten sitcom "Ned and Stacey") plays Jack as the poster boy for the unexamined life who takes going with the flow to an almost Zen level of shallowness. Church must be a good actor, because he comes off as stupid and vacuous as many of the men that I have known in real life (myself included, at times).

So who will like Sideways? Well, if you've read this entire review, you will. Only the most rigidly dogmatic thinkers and those that just can't be bothered to contemplate their own life and loves during a movie will feel they didn't get their money's worth. And that's only, what, 75% of the movie going public?

3 Comments:

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12:45 AM  
Anonymous marcus, from jefferson's blog said...

one thing that struck me about sideways - it seemed like a distant relative to the stunning "lost in translation". the only reason i bring this up is to suggest that people who dug one may dig the other. conversely, if you are one of those people who hated LIT, you may miss the subltleties and honesty of sideways, too.

12:07 AM  

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