Movie Report: Sideways (2004)

Book coverI got this film in February, and I watched it when it was amongst the latest and greatest haul. However, the February haul has been supplanted by the box load from the Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library Book Sale over the weekend, so I will likely start in on those before I finish the ones I bought in February.

At any rate, Sideways is a Paul Giamatti film. His name is above the title. I’ve always been a fan of Paul Giamatti–I remember him from The Truman Show and probably The Negotiator, but suddenly it seemed like he was in everything. But this is the only film I recall him in the starring role.

Giamatti plays Miles, a divorced man who is a writer and a wine and food enthusiast who takes his college roommate Jack on a week-long trip to wine country before Jack’s wedding. Jack is a philanderer and a scallawag, a bit shallow, but Miles is not an unblemished character either–his marriage collapsed due to his affair, and he starts the trip by visiting his mother to wish her happy birthday and to “borrow” (he probably thinks) some cash from her reserves. When they reach wine country, Jack sees that a waitress, played by Virginia Madsen, is into Miles, and he (Jack) arranges a double date when he picks up a winery pourer (played by Sandra Oh).

The relationships progress, but Miles learns that Jack has invited his ex-wife and her new man to the wedding, so he goes into a bit of a tailspin. Meanwhile, Jack’s relationship with Stephanie progresses as well even though Jack is supposed to be getting married in a couple of days–but he declares his love for Stephanie and their planned life together. One gets the sense that he means it, too, just like he means everything in the moment. When Miles lets slip they have to go to a rehearsal dinner, Maya tell Stephanie, and everything is off, but Jack has time for one last fling with another waitress before they return with a cover story explain his broken nose (having it broken by a jilted woman swinging a motorcycle helmet would not do).

The film is most notable for having damaged the merlot industry for a few years (and boosting the pinot noir varietal), but could be secondly noted for having two fully naked sex scenes in it. Miles walks in on both, and I’m sure this is a commentary on his lack of a relationship since his marriage and perhaps a comment on modern relationships as neither is a particularly Biblically sanctioned coupling. But give how few boobs one sees in action and comedy films these days, it was a little strange. Perhaps that’s because it’s a serious movie, where such things are allowed.

At any rate, a good film, a thoughtful film, and I am sure it would have hit me in a different chord if I’d watched it when I was 30 years old and fancied myself a struggling writer (about the time the film came out, I, too, was trying to place a book). But I’m twenty years older than that, and I’m a little calmer these days. So I did not identify with Miles as much as I might have.

Virginia Madsen appeared in this film. I mentioned Electric Dreams, a film that was an early role for her, last month. So perhaps I am on a Virginia Madsen kick.

And why not? She’s a pretty woman–pretty in a real way, not in a club girl/influencer/model way that magazines try to sell us.

She has kept busy and has aged well.

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