it’s part road trip/american pie for middle-aged single people, part swingers, and part somber mid-life crisis film. paul giamatti, who first made a memorable impression upon me in a bit role in howard stern’s Private Parts, is the cornerstone of a fine ensemble cast here. his role is the most difficult because it covers the widest range of emotions and is supposed to remain sympathetic despite doing some downright childish, albeit funny, things. before i go any further, let me first get off my chest the fact that, though this is certainly a very fine film, and a step above payne’s last effort (about schmidt), it’s not the masterpiece that election is. sideways is a lot more conventionally pitched and is geared more towards the older audience than election is, and i think that those are the reasons that it has garnered the attention that election never did. election is a better film visually, narrative-wise, and in terms of sheer number of laughs.
sideways does operate well on the figurative level – it’s ostensibly about wine, but wine comes to represent people, life, passion, etc. i think one thing that this film has over election is its embrace of life. it’s a passionate film and the protagonist, though beaten down by life, is a passionate person. he loves good wine, he is moved in his relationships and he’s very much a man of his emotions – though it’s not always obvious. giamatti’s character is extremely sympathetic and that’s important because most academy voters want to have someone to root for in a film; and that’s an element that some might say election lacked. i don’t think that sideways was an attempt on payne’s part to pander to the academy, but this is his most oscar-friendly film to date. this film certainly did take me on an emotional ride and in that way it was an unmitigated success, but i didn’t feel that there was enough style in the film and these days i’m a fiend for style.Watched in theater