WARNING: Spoilers for the movie Sideways may follow.
It’s been hailed as the “Indie film that could” by a great many folks, and it has its moments to be sure, but I came away conflicted from my viewing of Sideways, a tale of two friends, Miles and Jack, who embark on a week-long getaway through the Napa wine country.
On the plus side, Paul Giamatti’s performance as Miles, a depressed middle aged loser in love and life, is outstanding. He has a particular ability to convey sadness on the verge of tears that I’ve rarely seen. That’s not to say that you don’t at times want to slap Miles out of his self-loathing, but Miles’ emotional pain carried resonance with me and I would suspect anyone else who’s been on the “Dear John” end of a love story.
The film also has several wonderful scenes involving wine and wine commentary. The dialogue, despite a lot of swearing, is quite good. It’s not hard to understand why sales of Pinot Noir were up 20% in the last Christmas season. (Miles gives a subtle yet convincing speech about what he sees in the wine.)
In many respects a mood piece, reminding me somewhat of Lost in Translation, Sideways doesn’t quite offer the character dynamics that one might prefer. Miles gets where he’s going ultimately, but we can’t say the same of Jack or any other character. Also, one gratuitous sex scene mars the proceedings badly (though the chase scene that follows is quite funny).
In the end, I recommend Sideways. It’s a nice little film with several wonderful attributes, and even if I don’t think it’s quite up to the hype, I can appreciate what it tries to offer. Sort of like a nice Pinot Noir.