Movie Marathon #14: Sideways

by thethreepennyguignol

Sideways is one of those movies I’m almost pre-programmed to love. An cynical comedy (check) starring Paul Giamatti (Check) as a struggling writer (check) who goes on a wine tour (check) to celebrate his best friend’s upcoming nuptials. But I saw it before any of those things really meant anything to me-in my pre-film-buff, pre-alcohol, pre-writing days. I didn’t even know who Alexander Payne was, for the love of God.

But I still thought it was a beautiful movie. A small, ultimatley sad little film, it features some bloody good performances from the lead four (Daniel Hayden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh and the aforementioned Giamatti), and makes the most of the beautiful backdrop of the wine country. It also steers mostly clear of heavy wine talk or too much in-depth angsty author rubbish, so don’t keep using those as an excuse.

I think the reason Sideways ranks among my favourite films is because it takes such a different look at romance and love- for what boils down to a slightly puffed-up romantic comedy, it’s got a hell of a lot to say about various different kinds of relationships; friendship, engagement, marriage, divorce, affairs, romance. The central friendship between Giamatti’s depressive author and Church’s washed-up screen star is the driving force behind the film, and the way their respective relationships develop with their two lady friends says a lot about each character. For Church, what was meant to be a final fling before a life of married bliss turns into something uncomfortably genuine; for Giamatti, it’s all about nervously trying to navigate the minefield of romance after his divorce and general faliure.

The film pulls no punches with a wearily honourable ending, with both men basically attending to their responsibilities and facing an uncertain, probably rocky, future. Despite this, it holds a certain sense of optimism for both characters, refusing to consign them to the theoretical skip just yet; things might be difficult and pretty set-in-stone for now, but quote some Bukowski and everything’ll look a little brighter. If those aren’t words to live be, I may as well just end it now.

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