Sideways

Concluding a short tribute to Alexander Payne (whose Clooney-starring The Descendants opens Nov. 23), the wine-country road-trip dramedy Sideways has, appropriately, improved with age. I didn't like it so much in 2004, but it's grown on me. As middle-aged schlubs Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church go golfing and drinking in the Santa Barbara wine country, discontent gradually seeps through. One a failing actor, the other a failed novelist, they both feel how "we're not getting any younger," in the words of Haden Church's TV pitchman Jack, who's determined to get laid before his wedding (hello, Sandra Oh). Giamatti's depressed, divorced would-be novelist Miles just wants to get drunk, but in the movie's long, centerpiece scene, a discussion about pinot noir turns profoundly metaphoric. Miles naturally identifies with the "fragile, thin-skinned grape" (as opposed to the robust, insensitive cabernet). But, says a lovely local waitress (Virginia Madsen) in reply, you never know when wine—time in a bottle, really, a microcosm for life—has hit its peak or begun its "steady, inevitable decline." In other words, she tells Miles in her unsuccessful seduction, the glass may yet be half-full for him; there may yet be hope in his miserable life. On second viewing, after a long interval, the movie is more acutely felt if—like Miles and Jack—you've accrued more hardship and disappointment during those years. Payne and Northwest native Jim Taylor shared an Oscar for their script for Sideways, which, after the screening, may send you around the corner to 10 Mercer for a bottle of the 2002 Calera. Tell them Miles sent you. (R) BRIAN MILLER

Wed., Nov. 2, 7 & 8:39 p.m.; Thu., Nov. 3, 6:30 & 9 p.m.; Thu., Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m., 2011

 
comments powered by Disqus