Monday, June 13, 2011

Movie of the Week - Sideways

This week’s movie is Sideways (2004).

The dramedy is about two men, and best friends, reaching middle age without much to show for their lives but disappointment. They drive up to California’s wine country for a week to celebrate before one of them gets married. The film is by writer-director Alexander Payne, who is known for his sharp wit, wonderful dialog and almost sinister ability to critique and almost mock establishments and social structure harshly, but have it still play as comedy. While he has made a number of good films (Citizen Ruth, Election, About Schmidt), this is his best (and a great film) – Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor winning a screenplay Oscar in 2005. It has a very laidback indie aesthetic to it, letting the performances dictate the tone and feel. But, composer Rolfe Kent’s score is quite good and memorable and the visual work of cinematographer Phedon Papamichael and production designer Jane Ann Stewart fits well with Payne’s narrative aesthetic. The performances are brilliant in the film. Sandra Oh is good, but the work of the other two supporting actors, Thomas Haden Church (whose great work and Oscar nod got him hired by Sony on Spider-Man 3) and Virginia Madsen, is phenomenal and would be scene and film stealing if not for Paul Giamatti. He is exceptional, playing such emotional ups and downs. There are jovial moments, but there is always a creeping sense of depression and self-loathing that comes to the surface, but even in the happy moments it is there just below. It is probably one of the twenty five best performances of the decade. Sideways is a must see for fans of excellent writing and aspiring screenwriters, as this is how to write great and deep characters (plus you also need wonderful actors to play them, but it starts with the writing). Check out the trailer.

Available on Blu-ray, DVD and to Rent

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