Friday, March 04, 2005

"Sideways": a few remarks

I saw "Sideways" last night. It's got to be the world's coziest road movie. If you haven't seen it, I recommend it for a good chuckle and some gently proffered profundity. I think it's a movie targeting the middle-aged more than my own almost-middle-aged group, as it deals with a pair of early-40-something friends: Miles the neurotic writer/teacher and Jack the horndog actor, out for a week in California wine country, ostensibly to have some fun before Jack's wedding on Saturday.

Miles can't seem to move beyond his neuroses, and Jack is in thrall to his dick. The situation is compounded by the fact that both Jack and Miles suffer some massive egocentrism: each believes the other will enjoy his own favorite pursuit. This is why Miles invited Jack on a road trip through wine country: Miles is a wine connoisseur, with a special love of Pinot. His idea of a good time is wine-oriented. Jack, on the other hand, wants to get laid, and thinks it'd be a good idea for the two-years'-divorced Miles to get laid as well.

The movie treats any number of themes: friendship, sex, love, deception (of oneself and of others), and wine. "Sideways" is more about Miles than about Jack: even though Jack is on his way to getting married, we come to see that he's not about to change his philandering ways. Miles, on the other hand, has room to grow. When his possible love interest, Maya, asks him why he's so obsessed with Pinot, Miles gives a disquisition about Pinot grapes that doubles as a description of himself: delicate, needing just the right conditions to grow, but ultimately producing something unique and wonderful. Paul Giamatti takes what could have been a trite soliloquy and turns it into an awkward, lonely, hurt man's paean to his own feelings of regret and his stubborn hope for the future.

Thomas Haden Church obviously had fun with the part of Jack, whose dick never seems to stay put. His character is the mover and shaker, the one who refuses to see the negatives, even to the point of overlooking conspicuous dangers. Through his friendship with Miles, we see that friendship is a dialogue of strengths and weaknesses: Jack makes valid points about Miles's constant morose negativity; Miles is right to point out that Jack's philandering is just plain wrong. Neither friend is perfect, but friendship entails the ability to critique someone in spite of one's own imperfections. Jack and Miles are engaged in a good bit of egocentric projection, but they're both genuinely concerned for each other.

"Sideways" ends on a note of hope, as Miles makes a firm decision to do something and steps into the future. The movie isn't laugh-out-loud funny, but I enjoyed it and will probably come back to it. I suspect I'll appreciate it more as I mellow with age. Like a good, old wine. Probably not a Pinot, though.

KOREAN-CENSORSHIP NOTE: "Sideways" features a scene in which an enraged man charges naked out of his house in pursuit of Miles (who was trying to recover Jack's wallet from the house—long story). The censors blotted out the man's flopping tackle. While it's no loss to me, it's still annoying to see what Korean movie screens won't allow—especially since "Sideways" also featured some floppy tits and flabby asses (male and female).


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