“I like to think about the life of wine. How it's a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it's an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your '61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline.” --Maya, “Sideways”
This is one of those movies that everyone pretty much loves or hates. And the people who hate it really hate it. I, of course, love it, but I can totally understand those who hate it. I mean, the two main characters are 1) a drunken wine snob with self-confidence issues that rival most 12 year old girls, and 2) a failed TV star and overly confident, self-proclaimed playboy who is intent to cheat on his fiancé before getting married. Not exactly the most inspiring cinematic duo ever. I think guys generally like this movie more than girls, and I think that’s because the two characters I mentioned are really exaggerated versions of ourselves and friends that we’ve had/have. No, I don’t have any friends that want to cheat on their spouse/fiancé (that I know of). But it seems like a lot of times with best-bud relationships that there’s always some version of the self-loathing/overly-confident dynamic; like I said, just less exaggerated than depicted in the movie. Honestly though, there is some serious heart in this movie, and several scenes really strike an emotional chord with me, no matter how many times I see it (probably in the 10-12 range by now). Some people, including my wife, dislike this movie because of the constant symbolism between wine and the characters in the film, like in the quote at the top. To them it comes off cheap, but for me and others who like this movie, it really works. I can’t do it justice by explaining it, and I’m not going to apologize for it. Just watch it and see if it works for you.
Now that we have all of that out of the way, let me just add that beyond whether or not you like the story and characters, this is an extremely well-made film. Alexander Payne is an absolute wizard from behind the camera, even throwing in some great split-screen sequences. Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church both give the performances of their career. Rolfe Kent adds to it with a great musical score. Raise your glass and give a toast to #8 on the top 10 ½.
-Oh, and while we’re at it, top-5 breakout acting performances of the decade:
1. Adrien Brody, The Pianist
2. Audrey Tatou, Amelie (She was already really famous in France, but this movie made her a household name in the U.S., so I’m counting it.)
3. Joaquin Phoenix, Gladiator
4. Paul Giamatti, Sideways
5. Josh Brolin, No Country for Old Men (effectively moved him from the C-list to the A-list)
845. Robert Pattinson, Twilight