Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Sideways

MPAA Rating: R for language, some strong sexual content and nudity

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Comedy Drama
Length:
2 hr. 3 min.
Year of Release:
2004
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Fox Searchlight Pictures

What is true love and how do you know when you have found it? Answer

adultery

What are the consequences of sexual immorality? Answer

Why should I save sex for marriage? Answer

What is “fornication”? Answer

Relationship information
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Discover biblical answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more.

Pregnancy

DEPRESSION—What should a Christian do when overwhelmed with depression? Answer

DEPRESSION—Are there biblical examples of depression and how to deal with it? Answer

DEPRESSION—If God knows I am hurting, why doesn’t He help me? Answer

NUDITY—Why are humans supposed to wear clothes? Answer

wine

wine in the Bible

wine fat

wine press

grape

vinegar

lees

vine

fruit

drink

cup bearer

strong drink

drink offering

drunk

Featuring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh, Virginia Madsen, Marylouise Burke
Director: Alexander Payne
Producer: Michael London, Jay Cohen
Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures

In search of wine. In search of women. In search of themselves.

“Miles Faymond (Giamatti), a divorced middle school teacher and failed novelist, and his altar-bound friend Jack (Church) take a wine-tasting trip in California, pondering questions about their directions in life.”

Finally, a character in a movie said exactly what I have been thinking for years about the nature of Hollywood’s “true love”. It happens in movies all the time, someone falls “in love” with a person they have known for only about 13 seconds and will seemingly do anything for that person. The person could be a serial killer for all we know, but the infatuated soul just knows it is true love, and the movies usually never stop to examine the authenticity of the “love”. It is assumed we will just take it for what they say it is, but I, for one, can never seem to let it slide.

“Sideways,” Alexander Payne’s masterful new film, takes us on an alluring road trip through California wine county with middle-aged best-buds Jack and Miles. Jack (Thomas Haden Church) is getting married in a week, so his college pal and oenophile Miles (Paul Giamatti) has planned a road trip for the two that will feature good food, good golf, and great wine.

This was Miles plan at least; things never quite go the way the one plans in real life, much less in the movies. At one of their first stops, where Miles has obviously been before, they run into Maya (Virginia Madsen), an unassuming waitress who clearly is interested in Miles. They have met before, but Miles has convinced himself that she is married, and would have no interest in him. Besides, he is busy enough moping about his marriage that failed on him two years prior; his only joy seems to come from his love of fine wine, pinot in particular.

Soon after meeting Maya, they meet Stephanie (Sandra Oh), at one of their stops to taste the local wine. Jack is instantly attracted to her, and begins laying the charm on thick. Jack is a television actor, although his career now mostly consists of voice-overs you hear in car commercials. While Miles has a penchant for fine wine, Jack’s vice is fine women. He reveals to Miles that his goal for their little road trip is to “get laid” before he has to walk the aisle.

It just so happens that Stephanie and Maya are friends, so they arrange a double date, where Jack’s infidelities begin, and a genuine friendship between Maya and Miles blossoms, assuming his depressed nature doesn’t get in the way.

“Sideways” is a relationship film, and, while the women in their lives seem to complicate matters (while complementing the film), Miles and Jack’s relationship has clearly stood the test of time; more than likely due to the fact that they don’t see each other all that often. The old saying that opposites attract clearly comes into play here. Jack may have trouble with the women in his life, and needs lots of advice in how to handle those matters, but he is always there for Miles. He is always there to say something encouraging to his friend, to try to break him from his post-divorce stupor and get him to get his nose out of the wine glass and take a sniff of the real world.

The content in “Sideways” will more than likely be the cause of many passing on this movie. It is a shame the film had to be so vulgar, when it had great things to say. The language is strong, and anyone familiar with Payne’s previous works (“About Schmidt”) will have an idea what to expect. There are at least 75 f-words, and many profane uses of God’s name, in all of the various usages.

The sexual content is also very strong, and features two notably graphic sex scenes, accompanied by sounds and explicit dialogue. The main characters are not very admirable the majority of the time—with their constant drinking and sexual exploits—so Christians need to be fully prepared for the content.

Due to its filmmaking quality, this movie has Oscar® buzz all over it, which is primarily what drew me to it. The performances are incredible. Paul Giamatti plays his sad-sap to perfection, even though his character reminded me of ones he has played before. There is a scene at the end of the film, when he sees his ex-wife, that is a perfect example of an actor trying to suppress a whole lot of emotion to maintain his dignity. Thomas Haden Church carries the film, mixing hilarious dialogue and gestures with deep sincerity at times. His best scenes are when he simply talks to his friend; there is a lot to learn about these two, and the two men reveal the genuine sides of the character’s brilliantly. Virginia Madsen is top notch in a very vulnerable way; she is open, but fragile, and is willing to share herself with someone if they will just take the time to ask.

Ok, so back to comments I made when I started this review. About halfway through the film, after Jack and Stephanie have toured the local vineyards and spent time in his hotel room, Jack comes down to the bar to see Miles. He tells Miles that he has never felt this way about anyone, and is thinking about putting everything on hold to give this relationship a chance (remember, he has a wedding approaching rapidly).

Miles looks at him dumbfounded, as if he has no idea how he ended up being a friend to this guy. He reminds Jack that he doesn’t know what he is talking about, because he has only known this woman for 24 hours. There is no possible way he could have fallen in love with her that fast, he reminds him. It was something simple, I know, but when so many other movies mistake lust for love, it is refreshing to find one that knows the difference.

Violence: Moderate / Profanity: Extreme / Sex/Nudity: Extreme

[see our list of Relevant Issues of spiritual interest in this film]

Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—Sideways is a good film—not one deserving a Best Picture prize, certainly, but all in all an entertaining an interesting look at two friends who couldn’t be more different both dealing with some of the same issues in markedly different ways. While Jack is an immature yet vibrant character, Miles is a cynical but often more reasonable person. It’s easy to both identify and sympathize with both characters, but it’s also often easy to become frustrated with both of them. At the surface, especially as the story begins, it seems that Miles is the everyman character, someone that is down-to-earth and sensible—keeping the impulsive Jack out of trouble. But as the film goes on, it seems that Miles might actually be the more frustrating of the pair, as he is constantly depressed and lacks the capacity to risk rejection and grasp the opportunity of a relationship with the beautiful, clearly interested and available Mya.

Miles, however, eventually breaks out of his shell to a certain extent, and Jack ends up getting himself into a lot of trouble—only to be bailed out by Miles. It seems that Miles, in the end, is the more “successful” of the two in the trip, which he set out on only to taste good wine, while Jack wanted to have a good deal of sex, although both did plenty of what they set out to do. As far the quality of the film, it was good, not great, but definitely good. I personally don’t think it should be a Best Picture nominee, but I think it is worth taking a look at.

The main message of the film, shown through the character of Miles is a good one, and to me that message is that you need to take chances, to break out of any self-imposed depression, if that is possible. This does not mean you should reject the facts of the serious chemical imbalances and medical conditions of clinical depression, but that situational depression and general moodiness should be fought by trying and risking, instead of never really living. At times, Miles is a wounded lover, hurt deeply by the love he let get away in his
My Ratings: Average/3½
—Doug Coleman, age 22
Positive—This was definitely one of the best films of the year, and I loved it. The performances were great, and the direction by Alexander Payne was, as always, very good. There are two graphic sexual scenes in the film that were totally unnecessary and the language was pretty rough, but other than that, it was excellent. While some of the content is objectionable, the film doesn’t really condone their behavior. Also, the film contains lots of drinking and paints a really pretty picture of all things having to do with the art of tasting wine. Those who have had problems with drinking in the past may want to either think before going to see it or avoid it altogether. Other than that, I thought it was excellent, and one of the best films of the year. I recommend it, but with caution. Definitely not for children.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/5
—Adam Renkovish, age 22
Positive—This film is a tale of morality. These two friends have grown apart of the years and yet they still care deeply about one another. Yes, they make mistakes and both tell a horrible lie, but both pay for what they do. Many people condemn Hollywood for making such films because they are unchristian and tell stories the portray values that are not. Yet here we have a story that is loaded with values. These two men do things that are highly immoral and do they prosper? No, not at all. They are both depressed middle aged men watching their lives slip away. One is a womanizer and the other has a failed marraige and is working to reconstruct another damaged relationship.

This is not a Christian film, but the values in it are powerful. These two men suffer because they do things that are wrong, and they suffer because the society they live in is not accepting of such actions. People do talk like this, and people do act like this. These men are not hypocrites, they know that they are not perfect, and they suffer for their actions. These are moral values, values that they do not deem christian in the film, but none the less they are values. Maybe Hollywood has not strayed as far as many would like to believe, maybe their values reflect a society that is not slipping away morally but merely readjusting to a modern world.
My Ratings: Offensive/4½
—John, age 24
Neutral
Neutral—From a Christian view this is a buddy film focusing on 2 guys who are lost, and are trying to cope the best they can trapped in the world of their vices and without any thought of Christ and His redemption. One stays trapped unable to know how to escape while we feel that the other is finding a way out at the end rising above the deep despair of his life that in many ways was caused by his own actions. Christ is never mentioned or considered.

This movie is bitingly funny, but is “adult” in every sense of the word. Please be aware there is full frontal male nudity, although shown in a very humorous scene. In many ways the film shows the limits of life without Christ if taken from a Christian perspective, but the film is not intended to do so. That’s just a by-product of our being Christians.

As is common in most movies we see now, the only Christian imagery, which is heavily overdone, is in the wedding sequence in a ceremony that we know is taking place between a man whose vows are dead on arrival and a woman who he met under questionable circumstances to begin with. It’s tieing the two to Christianity, when nothing could be further from the truth.
My Ratings: Very Offensive/4½
—Bill Bagot, age 39
Neutral—I agree with the comment/review already made. Empty world. It would have been better had the real significance of this emptiness been stated more bluntly by the film. We just deduce from the dramatic actions that this is a movie about miserable people living in today’s amoral society, where self-gratification is a means and an end. There is some hope at the end of the story, but still in an utterly God-less universe. Great acting, well-done movie, a story about today’s lifeless life.

Only for the morally strong in Christ, who can see this for what it is.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/4½
Halyna Barannik, age 59
Neutral—I liked the film though the two sex scenes mentioned ventured very close to NC-17 territory when under the cover implied sex with perhaps brief nudity would have sufficed in my opinion. What on the surface looks to be a comedy adult romp of two middle aged men turned out to be much more (or less) than that and therein lies my problem with it; it mis-markets itself. In the huge supermarket in my neighborhood there is a promotion display offering the film for sale inviting the shopper to conveniently reach out and grab a copy. I believe many buyers who desire some degree of ethics/morality in films they view are going to be surprised when they get home and pop this one in their player.
My Ratings: Offensive/3½
—Dane, age 51
Negative
Negative—Don’t waste your time or money on this one. It was not only boring but disgusting. If you can sit through 50+ F-bombs and very graphic and gross sex scenes then you’ll like this movie. I walked out and the manager said many people had also walked out on this one. Oh, but there is one nice scene where the guy steals money from his elderly mother.
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/1½
—Cindy, age 42
Negative—How this movie got nominated for Best Picture is beyond me. It should have never made it to the theatres and should have died an anonymous death on cable. I’m ashamed that I was talked into seeing it. It’s two very graphic sex scenes were something that I didn’t need to see. There is nothing redeeming about this film, the only thing that was mildly entertaining was when Jack deservingly got his face broken up by Stephanie when she finds out the truth about him.
My Ratings: Very Offensive/1
—Michael, age 47
Negative—Sideways contains some of most wonderfully written dialogue I’ve seen in a movie in a long time. I’m thinking primarily the Virginia Madsen character (and why she didn’t win an Academy Award, I’ll never know). But that being said, the movie is also needlessly laced with profanities, a couple of very graphic sex scenes, and the two main characters are, for the most part, contemptible. I love wine. I love golf. Would I want to these to spend a week wine tasting and golfing with these two? Not a chance. I thought the two women characters were far more interesting and in the end, they were given far too little time to develop their characters fully. I though this would a movie I would love but ended up being disappointed.
My Ratings: Very Offensive/3½
—Dave, age 49
Negative—I watch this on dvd last night. It was depressing, disturbing and stupid. I need a mind shower this morning from the sex scenes alone, not to mention the language. I know some people try to find some deep meaning in the relationships represented in the flick, but honestly all it did was remind me of my life before Christ!

All I can say at this point is thank God for the Blood of Jesus that has saved me from a life as sad as these characters. It will give us a burden for the lost, but why subject ourselves to such evil?
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/4
—Sheila, age 39
Negative—The acting is great, but I found myself unable to care about these pathetic guys, both hopelessly stuck in a universe they are convinced revolves around themselves. Sadly, I think this is a good representation of the mindset of many in Hollywood (and elsewhere) today. A great movie to show how pointless a life away from God is. Thank the Good Lord for showing me there is more to life that what is represented here!
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/3
—Wayne, age 34
Negative—This movie was not only boring, but it was extremely offensive. The basic idea was simply about two guys on a weekend vacation just talking about tasting wine and one of them longing to find a woman to sleep with. The language was extremely offensive. …Remember, if you were watching this movie, would Jesus want to stay and watch it with you?
My Ratings: Extremely Offensive/1
—TF, age 37
Movie Critics
…One of the year’s best, this is vintage Payne…
—E! Online
…a sublime variation on the buddy road movie…
—Megan Lehmann, New York Post
…Comedy about wine, women and men’s inability to handle either is painfully funny…
—Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter
…a Yuppie male bonding/road movie… the conversations and even many of the situations have the ring of authenticity… all fits together into a satisfying whole…
—Jean Lowerison, San Diego Metropolitan
…something to savor… gem of a screenplay… captures the unflattering male psyche like no film since “Roger Dodger”…
—Duane Dudek, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
…a winner… As character study, as exercise in American ambience or simply as an entertaining movie, Sideways triumphs…
—Philip Wuntch, The Dallas Morning News