Our Movie Critic, Paul McGuire is back to share his review of one of my all – time favorite, foodie movies – Sideways. It’s the perfect movie for a foodie as it’s filled with scenes of friends gathering to enjoy great food and great wine in the beautiful California vineyards. Kevin and I recently visited the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley where the majority of the movie was filmed. We even had dinner at the Hitching Post – too fun! This movie will make you want to go to Santa Barbara county tomorrow!
Trivia Question: Do you know why Miles despised Merlot? Read on…
A Look Back at Sideways
One of the biggest movies gaining Oscar buzz this season is The Descendants starring George Clooney and directed by Alexander Payne. After I saw it, I was reminded of how much I loved Sideways which Payne made in 2004. Sideways is a fantastic movie for any wino out there. It was only fitting to open a bottle of red to go with my revisiting of this Paul Giamatti hit. This evening’s glass of wine was a 2008 Cline Ancient Vines Carignane.
Alexander Payne directed and wrote the screenplay based on Rex Pickett’s novel of the same name. Sideways follows two middle-aged friends as they road trip through the California vineyards the week before one of them gets married. Miles Raymond (Giamatti) is an aspiring fiction writer, wine aficionado, and 8th grade English teacher. He seems to be at a crossroads in his life. He is uptight as he is recently divorced and still yearns for his ex wife. He is also struggling to find a publisher for his book. His best friend Jack (Church) proclaims he has been “officially depressed for two years”. Jack is quite the opposite of Miles. He is easy going, a famous actor, and he is soon to be getting married. The concept of getting married doesn’t seem to stop him from wanting to cheat on his fiancé. The trip to him signifies his last hurrah before settling down.
The trip is a supposed to consist of simple tours of vineyards, wine tastings, and some rounds of golf. Their first stop is in Santa Barbara County. At their tasting, it is quite evident that Miles is the professional wine connoisseur and Jack is a novice. Miles teaches Jack how to look at the wine, sniff the wine, oxygenate the wine, smell again, then drink the wine. Jack chews gum during to the first tasting to Miles’ surprise and horror. They stop into The Hitching Post for a bite to eat, and they all know Miles by name. He is no stranger as the bartender and waitress all know about his upcoming book. Jack believes their waitress, Maya (Madsen), is flirting with Miles. Maya is divorced as well and Jack believes this is the perfect opportunity for Miles. The guys meet Stephanie (Oh) at a vineyard where she leads a tasting. Stephanie knows Maya which is too convenient for Jack. As he flirts with Stephanie, he thinks
Miles could get to know Maya better. He arranges a double date for the four of them in Los Olivos under the notion that the ladies do not find out that Jack is about to get married. Before Jack and Miles head into the restaurant, Miles gives his infamous thoughts on merlot. The double date scene is quite pivotal for the characters, audience, and for real life wine sales. Merlot sales dropped quite a bit while pinot sales skyrocketed. Trivia Question: Do you know why Miles despisesd Merlot? The answer is revealed in the Sideways book; Merlot was his ex-wife’s favorite wine!
There is a wonderful scene later in the movie between Miles and Maya that shows off both Giamatti and Madsen. Miles only comes alive when he talks about wine. His monologue about pinot to Maya shows a different side of himself as he seems at peace but still very guarded and resentful. Maya listens to him with interest and desperately tries to have him open up.
Sideways was nominated for five Academy Awards including: Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Church) and Supporting Actress (Madsen). It took home one statuette for Alexander Payne who won for his adapted screenplay. It was beat out by Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby. In my opinion, Giamatti was severely robbed of a nomination.
Speaking of the Academy Awards, check out my blog http://paulstriptothemovies.blogspot.com for my latest reviews and my predictions on what movies could walk away with the coveted Oscar.