Picture This! Reviews Sideways

A ‘Sideways’ Glance
I can say without reservation that the characters rang true to my experience…
By Rebecca Redshaw


Alexander Payne has a way with dialogue. His words ring true which is no small feat in scriptwriting. In Sideways, the two leading men are way past trim waists, smooth pick-up lines, and slick cars. Miles [Paul Giamatti] and Jack [Thomas Hagen Church] decide to treat themselves to a male bonding fling before Jack’s nuptials.

But their ideas of bonding are decidedly different. Hapless Miles, a depressed, divorced, frustrated novelist envisions a few rounds of golf and more than a few bottles of fine wine.

Jack, having all the stereotypical lack of depth of a marginal actor, just wants to get laid.

A chance meeting with Maya [Virginia Madsen], an attractive waitress Miles had known from another trip and Stephanie [Sandra Oh] a wine pourer the men met on a wine tasting tour provide more than enough fodder for Payne to weave a good script. (Adapted from the novel by Rex Pickett.)

Having lived in Los Angeles for more than twenty years and worked in the “business,” I can say without reservation that the characters rang true to my experience. [One man who asked me to be his writing partner pondered that “it could be awkward on the road, when he brought women in.” I saved him the trouble of adding yet another layer of lies to tell his dying wife and ended our writing relationship.]

But as boorish as Jack’s mission, it’s hard not to like the guy. Like a big, dopey puppy, he may knock over the figurines with his wagging tail, but he’s so cute doing it. Miles, on the other hand, is just a guy. When happiness is finally within his grasp, he apparently mucks it up like everything else in his life.

Sideways is a road trip but an intelligent one. Madsen and Oh definitely hold up their end with strong performances. At 123 minutes, it’s almost more time than one needs to spend with Giamatti and Church, but then again, like fine wine, this movie needs to be sipped slowly and savored.

Rebecca Redshaw is the Arts& Entertainment Critic for She can be reached at