Film review: Sideways (2004)

Love this film about friendship, about flawed but likeable characters, and how we encourage the ones we care about. We follow two middle age men presumably in their forties, Miles and Jack, who are on a road trip through California to celebrate Jacks last freedom before he’s to be married.

Sideways is a drama/comedy road movie. The title is a reference to the best way to store wine, on its side. And in some ways Miles is also lying down in life. He has never recovered mentally from the break-up of his marriage two years earlier.

The wine plays a symbolic role in the film, and reflects the mood of the characters. Miles feels like a Pinot, the potential of which is not revealed unless you take your time. Miles must learn to open his inner wine bottle, before its too late, his life lacks that spark, and he devotes his attention to having good taste, maybe to make himself more interesting towards the ladies. My favourite scene I can rewatch endlessly is between Miles and Maya, where they discuss wine after the dinner, here are some screenshots from my dvd:

Sideways was nominated for an oscar for best picture, didn't win, but won an academy award for best adapted screenplay based on a novel by Rex Pickett.

Alexander Payne is among my favourite directors, his films are so warm, smart, funny and rewatchable. The flawed characters have a genuine emotional core.

The two men realize that you can’t run away from who you are. It’s a journey of self-discovery. I think we laugh with them and not at them. An exploration of life, longing and second chances. The director makes us care about these two misfits who seem headed towards their own destructions.

Sideways is about the rewards of friendship and the frustrations of middle age. The director is tackling the gloom of modern mediocrity, and exposing weakness in a warm-hearted package. Although I still prefer About Schmidt, I think Sideways succeeds on every level. And I don’t hesitate calling it one of the best films of 2004.

I saw on the DVD that director Alexander Payne was looking to have cinematography like some of the movies from the 70s, which I can see now is similar to sun drenched images in Badlands or Harry and Tonto. Payne is not influenced so much by recent films, but older ones.

I’ve read that the film increased tourism in the Santa Ynez Valley, where parts of the story took place. They also believe it affected sales of wine mentioned in the script.



Readers, any thoughts on Sideways?


  1. I watched Sideways a few years ago and I like it very much.
    My friend gave me that movie because I'm a big admirer of tasting a good wine.
    "In vino veritas" ;)

  2. @ Night Admirer : Thanks for stopping by. Sideways must be one of the best wine tasting movies out there. I saw "Bottle shock" (2008), didn't enjoy.
    I looked up your quote, which I didn't know: "in wine there is the truth" ( :

  3. I adore that scene between Giamatti and Madsen - a beautifully captured moment of intimate fragility.

  4. @Burning Reels: Agreed, that scene was Alexander Payne at the top of his game! Reminds me of the scene in About Schmidt were Nicholsen spends an evening in a trailer park with a married couple, and while the husband is out, the wife in such a brief encounter understands N. better than N's own wife ever did, again, powerful stuff.

  5. See, you gave me a whole new perspective on this film. I tend to remember it as a vehicle for Giamatti's talent, or for the shy romance between Miles and Maya. I don't often pay much attention to Miles and Jack's friendship, except to wonder why in the world they've kept in touch. But I can see now how the whole "coax it to its fullest expression" could extend to their friendship too.

  6. @ M. Carter @ the Movies. Kind of does give Sideways a new perspective, even though Jack probably doesn't read Miles' re-edited novel, but pretends to, haha. I wish I had a friend like Jack who kept pushing me to never give up on my dreams.
    It was so cool to connect the dots, I thought of that idea "coax it to its fullest expression could extend to their friendship too" while reading your review, actually ( :

  7. I have yet to watch this wine movie yet. saw some snippets at a wine event quoting....I am not going to drink any F***** Merlot...haha


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