Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh, Marylouise Burke and Jessica Hecht

Alexander Payne

Running Time:
123 mins

Out to buy on DVD 16/05/05

"Did you drink and Dial again!"


With a week to go until Jack (Haden Church) gets married and his best man Miles (Giamatti) has organised a week of wine tasting in the vineyards of California to celebrate his remaining time of freedom. Miles sees it as a chance to spend time with his friend but Jack sees it as his last chance to be with other women. Each of them will go on a journey of self-discovery, facing responsibility, guilt, fear and their own personal demons, while drinking a lot of very good wine.

Teenagers and twenty year-olds all have their rites of passage movies but what about those people who still don't know what they are going to do with themselves in their late thirties?

'Sideways' takes an amusing look at two men in their late thirties who still haven't got a plan for their lives. Caught between freedom and inevitable responsibility, both Miles and Jack have reached a pivotal moment in their lives and this week is the time they are going to assess what they have achieved during their short stay on the planet. For this is a time of major reflection for Miles, as he waiting for answer to see if his book is going to be published. If it fails, he'll have nothing, as he has reached an age were he thinks that if he doesn't have money then he will never find another woman. This is the end of his single life for Jack and he sees the week as his last opportunity to be with another woman. He believes that he will be trapped as soon as he gets that ring on his finger and he is ridded with doubt. Each of these characters has a lot to face and this week could be a crucial time in their lives. This is what draws you into the characters and the story.

Bringing Jack and Miles to life are two exceptional performances from Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti. These two drive the movie and draw you into their frustrations, fears and doubts in a manner that makes it extremely easy to relate to the characters. Thomas Haden Church is one of those actors who you recognise but can't but a name to but this is the movie that will thrust him into the limelight. As Jack, he is the quintessential ladies man who plays on his minor celebrity, as an ex-TV series actor, to draw women into his bed. Flamboyant, funny and slightly dim, Church makes Jack very likeable, even though he is actually cheating on his wife to be. It is hard to think of a time when Paul Giamatti gave a bad performance, even when the movie didn't deserve it. He excels as a man who's life is slowly heading down the toilet, as it seems to be filled a parade of disappointments and bad news. This is a role that Giamatti was made to play and a part that shows the true array of his talents. The character goes through a journey of self-discovery that will shape the rest of his life and Giamatti conveys this in a way only he can.

'Sideways' is all about Jack and Miles but there are some good supporting characters that accompany them on their journey. Virginia Madsen returns to your attention after a few years in the wilderness. As Hollywood clamours for the young and beautiful, they are very few quality roles for actresses over the age of forty but Madsen's Maya is one of those rarities. This is a woman who has also gone through a divorce but is open to the thought of another relationship. She has so many things in common with Miles and they are bound to get along but he doesn't have the same confidence. Madsen excels in the role and lights up the screen, every time see graces it. The same can be said about Sandra Oh's Stephanie. This is another strong female character and she makes it easy to see why Jack would be attracted to her.

'Sideways' is a rites of passage movie of middle-aged generation. It shows that there is no age limit to not having a life plan and people can be stuck in a personal rut any time in there lives. It is the performances and the story that draw you in to this comedic, heartfelt look at real life. Director Alex Payne has real affinity with his actors, coaxing the best out of them and with this, driving the story. The emotions flow along with the wine, as Jack and Miles discover the true meaning of life in the vineyards of California and you feel like you've made some friends along the way.


Presented in Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 with a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, transfer is very good meaning that Miles and Jack's journey through life and wine country has never looked or sounded as good.


Commentary by actors Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church
Once in a while a commentary track comes along that is just as entertaining as watching the film itself, this is one of those rare occasions. The stars of the movie come together for a very funny and extremely chatty track that is just a joy to listen to. It is blatantly obvious that these two have become firm friends through making the movie and their quick wit and gift for storytelling makes the commentary a brilliant compliment to the film. The pair regales us with tales from the shot and constantly comment on what is going on onscreen but just taking the mickey out of each other. This is one of those rare occasions that you should watch the movie and then watch it with the commentary straight after as it really adds to the 'Sideways' experience.

Behind the scenes featurette (6.35 mins)
Director Alexander Payne and stars Paul Giamatti, Thomas Hayden Church, Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh take you behind the scenes of 'Sideways'. The group talk about what attracted them to the project, the chemistry between the characters and the story itself. While this is a little short, the featurette cover most aspects of the character driven comedy.

Deleted Scenes (16.30 mins)
Entitled 'Miles throws away the bible', 'Jack mocks Miles and Tracy opens the door for the one-legged man', 'Miles hits a dog', 'Earlier version of the couples' afternoon together', 'Too sporty', 'The Paraguayan Vulture' and 'Miles gets the vicodin', these deleted scenes are accompanied by introductory notes by director Alexander Payne, explaining why the scenes were removed from the final cut.

An inside look at 'Kingdom of Heaven' and previews of 'Creep', 'House of Flying Daggers', 'Kinsey' and 'Arrested Development: Season 1'


While the number of bonus features on the DVD might be small it is quality not quantity that wins the day here. The commentary track alone will delight fans of the film, as it is one of the best examples of how good the medium can be. The deleted scenes are good and the featurette covers everything you need to know about the production. For fans of 'Sideways' this is a must buy and a great rent for everyone who missed this gem at the cinema.


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