by Sandra Smith
Starring Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh
How a movie like Sideways got four stars is beyond my comprehension when it is in competition with excellent movies like Finding Neverland. I left the film feeling a little cranky again — the movie was entertaining enough, but I felt cheated because I expected a four-star movie and instead got a chick-flick for men. And if I see one more movie showing a man sitting on a toilet, or whizzing with realistic sound effects, I definitely might leave.
This was not the best movie, the acting was not the best — but very good (it's what made the movie watchable), and it was amusing in spots rather than really funny. Paul Giamatti is Miles, a pretentious and pathetic whiner who thinks he's still in love with his ex-wife. My guess is that's because it's a good excuse to remain sorry for himself rather than do anything about his life — like dating Maya (Virginia Madsen) who likes him for some obscure reason.
I don't care for characters like Miles in books or film, whether they are male or female. They romanticize the deliberately ineffectual and those who feel sorry for themselves and call it "literary." In the hands of a master, with perfect material, that can work, though.
Thomas Hayden Church, Jack, is Miles' best friend who's getting married in a week and wants to have a good time. We've all known men like Jack. He told Stephanie (Sandra Oh) that he loved her and was going to move to wine country to be with her. So he could continue to get laid. Very funny stuff. Right.
Miles takes Jack on a bachelor party to wine country. That's Miles' favorite thing to do, not Jack's. They taste wine, eat, drive, taste wine, eat, drive and finally meet Maya, a waitress going for a masters in horticulture and Stephanie, a pour girl at a winery. Miles blows his chance with Maya — and then finks on his best friend Jack so Stephanie finds out he's getting married. Then they drive some more and get in a couple of scrapes.
I guess reality TV is seeping into movies and polluting them. Somehow, "that was so realistic" has become praiseworthy, in some movies anyway. Hence dumping and whizzing and some knowledgeable, and not that interesting if you don't care, talk about wine. Yes, I got that some of it was metaphor — I liked that part. The idea that somebody like Miles, and I'm not talking about his looks either, could attract somebody like Maya is a classic male fantasy. Right up there with being an older doughy regular guy (not wealthy) and attracting beautiful 20-year-olds. Thus my new genre subcategory "male chick-flick" Which is a buddy movie with a little bit of sensitivity. Some movies do transcend their original vision. This one didn't.
It was entertaining. Just don't give it four stars.
Sandra Smith is a freelance writer and graphic designer specializing in marketing and business writing. She left Santa Cruz, CA and moved to Modesto, CA to be near family. Visit her website at www.pagesmith.net.