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Title: Sideways

Director: Alexander Payne

Stars: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, et al.

Reviewer: Matt Eccles

Rating (out of 10): 8


Sometimes a film comes along that stands out like a diamond amongst the rusty dross mostly endured by more discerning cinema audiences. Sideways, Alexander Payneís delightful adaptation of Rex Pickettís novel, is such a movie. Further, what is refreshing and all too rare is that the torrent of critical praise that hailed its arrival turns out to be entirely justified.

Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti), a wine connoisseur and divorcee, takes his brash buddy, Jack (Thomas Haden Church), a has-been actor, on a wine-tasting trip around Santa Barbara to mark the latterís last seven days of singledom. But not only does Jack want to see his depressed friend get over his former wife and get laid, he wants to forget his soon-to-be wife for the week and score some action himself.

It is this simple premise from which a series of marvellously written and acted set-pieces follow. The dynamic between the lead pair is superbly authentic, eliciting sympathy, humour and scorn in equal measure. Both invariably disapprove of the othersí actions, but they tacitly realise that without each other they would never escape the various entanglements in which they find themselves. Jack tries to set up Miles with familiar waitress Maya (Virginia Madsen) while having illicit fun himself with her friend Stephanie (Sandra Oh). Naturally, Jackís voracious libido and Milesí grudging acceptance to play along with his companionís ill-advised schemes Ė all within a haze of fine wine-induced inebriation - land the pair in various scrapes. Funny as these are, the film is overwhelmingly a character piece and is wonderfully realised.

By some distance, Sideways was the deserving winner of 2005ís Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. Many of those who saw its competitors in other categories were asking why it didnít gain further rewards as, in short, it is vintage stuff.

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