Saturday, January 01, 2005

EC:WC FCA - Sideways

Hello, this is Trubador here as the West Coast member of the "East Coast:West Coast Film Critics Association." As some of you may already know, this esteemed association consists of two people - myself and my brother (known as "Vic" the East Coast critic). We occasionally view a film and then verbalize our opinions. Take it as you see fit. Though don't be surprised if you find our reviews a bit more reliable than Mr. Ebert's.

is as mysterious and temperamental as both Miles, the main character of this film, and his favorite wine grape – Pinot Noir. It’s a rich little film that takes you on a tour through California’s Central Coast wine country, while at the same time guiding you through a tour of the lives of two middle-aged men who’ve been friends since college.

Miles, a long-struggling novelist, is an uptight yet depressed wine snob (in the best sense of the words). Divorced two years prior, Miles wants to give his best friend Jack a proper pre-nuptial send-off. This would entail lots of wine tasting throughout the gorgeous coastal wineries and vineyards, sumptuous meals, and a few rounds of golf.

Jack is a happy-go-luck failing actor who just wants to sow his wild oats (again) one last time (or two) before tying the knot. So off they go for a week whereupon Miles gets an opportunity to see Maya, a waitress at his favorite haunt who’s putting herself through graduate school. He’s been attracted to her for some time, but hasn’t the nerve to do anything about it. Jack, on the other hand, meets Maya’s friend Stephanie during a wine tasting tour. One taste of her, and Jack wants to drink even more of her charm and warmth. Basically, feckless Jack just wants to get laid, and he wants his best man to get some noogy too. It’s an automobile accident just waiting to happen (in more ways than one).

It’s a witty and well-written movie that explores the bonds of friendship, the wounds of broken marriages, and the complexities of the human heart. There is some foul language and a couple scenes of sexual conduct (in quite side-splitting circumstances, I might add). There is also a scene near the end that on the surface makes you wonder if there is a certain mocking of the institution of marriage. But as you savor and reflect on the film (as you would a glass of fine wine) you come away with a better understanding of all that’s been involved to make these rich characters come to life.

There has been a lot of critical praise for this film, which has already started winning several awards. Talk is that it’s the sleeper that may snirch a few Oscars. I don’t know about that. It’s a great little film: finely written, well acted, funny, rich and heart-warming. But any Academy voter worth his or her wine cellar knows that “The Passion of the Christ,” it’s director Mel Gibson, and actors Jim Caviezel (Jesus) and Maia Morgenstern (Jesus’ Mother, Mary) are far more deserving. I’ll be surprised, though, if that happens.

As far as “Sideways” is concerned, it’s definitely in the Top-10 for 2004, and I give this film 4-and-1/2 wine bottles out of 5 (Pinot Noir, of course).

Oh… and the important question is… when is the perfect time and what is the perfect meal to go with your preciously saved bottle of ’61 vino?