Socialist Worker

An unexciting film that will still knock you sideways

by Kelly Hilditch
Issue No. 1936

Still from Sideways

Still from Sideways

Directed by Alexander Payne
Released Friday 28 January

A film about two middle aged men taking a week’s holiday touring the Californian vineyards doesn’t exactly sound, well, that exciting. And it’s not really. In fact 30 minutes into this film I was planning my escape route. But this is one of that rare breed of film where it’s well worth persevering.

Director Alexander Payne’s earlier films Election and About Schmidt can be seen as part of the journey leading to this one. I never really felt at home with those films. They were good, and they were interesting. But the characters in them were a little one-dimensional —very much created to emphasise a point or an idea—funny and watchable, but not real.

Sideways is real. You know these people and you get where they’re coming from and it can be a little close to home. You may laugh at them but you can’t quite shake the feeling that you’re laughing at yourself.

Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church play Miles and Jack, two old friends from college who really have nothing in common any more, just some history. They have the sort of relationship we can all recognise. Both actors give absolutely brilliant performances.

This film focuses on the mundanity of the individual characters and the choices they have made. But we also see the choices that are out of their hands, the position they have been placed in by the society in which we live. A society which judges our worth by what we can produce rather than what we are capable of.

US film making would have a lot more respect world wide if they put a little more money into making films like this instead of the overblown blockbusters we associate with Hollywood.

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Article information

Sat 29 Jan 2005, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1936
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