Overlooked Film of the Week- #34
We've all had times in our lives that have been hard. Minor bad times, major bad times, we've experienced it all. Life is a big roller-coaster of ups and downs, and when your down, it always feels daunting. Sometimes life lampoons you with bad event after bad event, the bad seems to outweigh the good to the point that life feels unfair. How do we overcome the bad, we just have to remember that the bad times pass, as everything does. One of my favorite songs from the 1990's said that "life is a race, sometimes your ahead, sometimes yor behind, the race is long, and it the end, its only with yourself." I've always found vast truth in those words, the bad stops effecting us when we choose for it to.
I discovered "Sideways" on a particularly bad day. It was the end of a grading period and high school and I had flunked my math class for that period. I had never had an F on a report card ever, and I was embarrassed, so shocked and so paranoid that it led to me making even more bad decisions. After what seemed like a never-ending misery, I popped in "Sideways" out of sheer curiosity, and afterward, I felt I could handle anything. I know what I went through does not even begin to compare to what happens to Miles (Paul Giamatti) over the course of the film, but I definitely got something big out of the experience. I feel in the year since, "Sideways" has been shaping me as a person.
"Sideways" is simple. Miles takes his best friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) to the heart of wine country in California as a best man gift. Miles' life is anything but happy; he isn't close to his family, his father is dead, he's an unsuccessful writer, he's divorced, he's depressed, he's this, he's that. The effects of all those emotions are etched all over Miles' face in every scene. It doesn't help Miles that Jack is a cheating jerk, who plans to have as much intercourse as possible before he's officially locked in marriage. But in misery, opportunity is sparked. Miles connects with an old friend Maya (Virginia Madsen), someone else who happens to be struggling in life. Could Maya be who Miles needs in order to get his life back?
"Sideways" is an example of a romance that doesn't overplay its hand. The romance scenes are funny and subtle. They never once come off as a soap opera, the script is written with genuine care, there are no stupid lines in the movie at all. There are also a couple of laugh-out-loud raunchy moments that I feel will blindside you with glee. At the films core, I feel this film matches with the lyrics at the beginning of this review, life is only as hard as WE make it. That powerful lesson is stretched throughout this entire movie. If you don't need life lessons, you can still learn quite a bit about wine.
Through my explanations, I know I am probably making "Sideways" come off like a heavy film. Its not, at least it never feels like it. The script is written with so much sincerity, so much wit, and with so much heart that its themes never feel like overkill. There is a great balance of theme, humor, drama and romance that works incredibly well. Set in some of the most beautiful Californian locations with catchy soundtrack, "Sideways" evokes surprising emotions.
It also helps that the cast works well. This is some of the very best acting Paul Giamatti has done in years. That is saying something coming from me, as Giamatti is one of my favorite working performers. Thomas Haden Church, so good in TV's "Wings," plays up the outspoken, ready-to-party friend to great heights. Madsen fights very good beats as Maya. I must also give praise to Sandra Oh, famous for her role on TV's "Grey's Anatomy." Oh plays Stephanie, who is Jack's flame on this trip until she discovers the truth. I think Sandra Oh is quite charming in the role.
If you're having a bad day, I think "Sideways" could be the cure to turn it all around.