Directed by: Alexander Payne
Premise: Miles and Jack (Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church) take a road trip before Jack’s wedding and hook up with a couple of single women (Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen).
What Works: Despite its heavy premise, Sideways is very funny. Giamatti is very good as a middle school teacher and aspiring writer paired with a has-been television actor played by Church. The two characters have a mismatched friendship and very opposite priorities and values. Watching them interact and struggle in their week together makes for interesting viewing. The story is constructed so that the men’s actions constantly inform and change each other’s situations. This successfully complicates the drama and continually heightens the conflict.
What Doesn’t: Sideways meanders through some parts, especially the ending, and we have to wonder what the point of all this was. That is part of the film’s intent, but some viewers may struggle with the lack of a conclusion.
DVD extras: Commentary track with Giamatti and Church, deleted scenes, behind the scenes featurette, Easter eggs.
Bottom Line: Sideways is a film about people whose lives have not lived up to their expectations as a result of their own faults and from forces outside of their control. The film is about second chances and moving on and in that way Sideways is very satisfying.
Episode: #55 (June 12, 2005)