One of the best and funniest movies of the year is "Sideways," the witty, straightforward comedy from Alexander Payne, the director of "Election." Starring Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church, "Sideways" is a deep yet simple film with simple results - I haven't laughed so much in a long time.
Offbeat comedy isn't for anyone, and people should be wary if they did not find "Election" or "About Schmidt" very funny. If you did, or if you haven't tried Payne's style of humor, "Sideways" is his best to date. The movie is about two men, Miles, a depressed, divorced wine-lover (Giamatti) and Jack, an outgoing and fun-loving soon-to-be-married bachelor (Church). In the week leading up to the wedding, the two men go on a trip to northern California to enjoy wine and play golf - at least that's what Miles wants. Jack wants to get laid one more time before he gets hitched and he wants Miles to get laid, too. When they meet two women (played by Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh), things finally begin to look up for Miles, who hasn't been happy in a long time. Of course, Jack's lies won't help matters in the long run.
On paper, the plot seems like a childish, teen romp of a film, but the exact opposite is true. "Sideways" is an adult-oriented film with rich characters and a smart screenplay. The jokes are subtle but laugh-out-loud funny, and the movie gets funnier and funnier as it goes along.
More than anything else, the acting is superb. A good script is one thing, but it takes good actors to deliver the lines. Giamatti and Church play their characters to perfection. Giamatti has always been exceptional (though is only beginning to get leading roles), but Church really explodes onto the scene, stealing the thunder from his co-star. Of course, both men play off each other well and make a good, if morally-lacking, odd couple. The women also do a good job.
"Sideways" is easily one of the funniest movies of the year, but it is much deeper than your normal comedy. Terrific acting and a great screenplay make it the movie to see.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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