(2004)

Alan:  (Important:  See rebuttal review immediately following)

Ebert: Rolling Stone: TV Guide:


Warning, minor plot points revealed!

Quick Review:  Let me say two things first before I even start this review.  First, I like , very much, the films of Alexander Payne.  I thought Election was brilliant and About Schmidt was a fine movie and Jack did a great job with the non-flashy role.  The second thing I want to say is that I like Paul Giamatti.  I don't think he's the greatest actor walking the planet, as some are apt to say as of late, but I do like him (don't let my review of last year's American Splendor dissuade you.)  He just happens to be in movies that I don't like. 

Sideways is a complete mystery to me.  Not the movie.  The movie is fine.  A mildly entertaining little comic drama.  It was a cute film, a good date movie, but that's it.  Honestly it's basically a chick-flick for guys.  So the confusion comes because this is the highest regarded, critically lauded, award after award winning movie of the year.  They are heaping praise on it as if it were the definitive cinematic event of our generation.  Why?  I have no idea.  I'm not joking.  I honestly saw no performance, writing, directing, cinematography or anything in this film that was worthy of a nomination, let alone an award. 

I thought maybe I'm just not pretentious enough to pretend that I enjoyed it, but I actually saw this film in an independent art house theatre that was packed with snobby artsy ersatz intellectuals who chuckled at the appropriate moments  but didn't seem to enjoy the film anymore than I did.  So I ask again.  Who likes this movie?  Who?!  I demand that someone write a rebuttal review that I can post here that explains why this movie is getting so much attention and praise.  As far as I'm concerned it shouldn't have even been nominated at all (for anything) and if it wins Best Picture then the Academy Awards will have lost all meaning. 


Rebuttal Review by Joel Speiser

First, let me say that I don’t go to many movies – and as such, I am a movie consumer, not a movie critic.  So, when I do see a film it’s not because of the director’s fabled technique, the splashy special effects, or even the fame of the actors; it’s because, plain and simple, I wish to be entertained.  I want to spend the next couple of hours so caught up in the story, so engrossed in the events unfolding onscreen, so understanding of the feelings and emotions of the characters before me, that I leave the theater basically replaying, reevaluating, reliving the emotional roller coaster from which I just disembarked.  Granted, it is the skill and talent of all those professionals whose efforts create the environment in which I find myself so engrossed; poor writing, acting, or directing could result in a film that just doesn’t work, that doesn’t grab the viewer and rivet him to his seat, his eyes and ears a conduit to the drama unfolding before him.  But my point is I don’t go to movies because some critic praised the nuances of the lighting effects or the director’s technique; I go to movies to enjoy the finished product, not the nuts and bolts that built it.

Within that context, I felt Sideways was an exceptional film, well-deserving of the praise that has been heaped upon it. The characters are eminently believable, the situations completely credible, and the emotions real and powerful; this movie works.  We all know people like Jack and Miles, one boorish, one sensitive; we all, at times, have probably felt like Miles; we can relate to the characters, they’re real, and we find ourselves empathizing with them, reacting to the events that they encounter along with them. But more importantly, the emotions which those believable characters in believable situations elicit in others and experience themselves are powerful and heart-rending; we feel for Stephanie, we feel for Miles, and yes, we even feel for poor Jack.

So maybe the directing wasn’t spectacular, the lighting exceptional, or the scenery breathtaking.   Or maybe they were – I was just too caught up in the lives of the people on screen to notice.