My impulse is to gush about Alexander Payne's new film "Sideways." Payne heads west in his fourth feature, leaving middle America for the bright, sun-dappled California coastline. Middle-aged buddies Miles and Jack take one last trip together before Jack's wedding.
Miles (Paul Giamatti) a depressed, self deprecating divorcé, wants to share with friend his love for good wine. Jack (Thomas Hayden Church), a ruggedly good-looking, washed up actor, wants to get laid. Classically mismatched, sporting an easy rapport that always convinces, they are hilarious together.
The week long adventures of Miles and Jack are highly unpredictable. It's impossible to guess what Jack is going to say next, but chances are good it will be lewd. I laughed at every silly joke. Jack, once famous for a role on a soap opera and voice-overs for commercials, is a bit of a macho dumbass, but he's also warm and sincere a nearly impossible mixture that Thomas Haden Church gets just right. But Paul Giamatti is the film's tradional hero. He is the sensitive good guy, stuck in role of the bad cop, as he tries to control the damage of Jack's hedonist streak. In the meantime, he is searching for his own happiness, riding along on Jack's easy charm. Giammatti's performance is more quiet and nuanced than Hayden's, but he is equally terrifc.
In Santa Ynez, Jack and Miles meet women. Real women, beautiful women you would not be surprised to come across in real life. Virginia Madsen plays Maya, the wine loving waitress who captures Mile's heart. Sandra Oh has less time on screen as the wild wine-pouring, motorcycle-riding Stephanie, but she steals every scene.
Maybe that doesn't sound like so much. Four middle-aged, middle-class people drinking wine, going out to dinner, screwing in motel rooms. You'll have to trust me, because I wouldn't want to spoil any of the jokes or poignant moments. "Sideways" is a perfect film without a wrong note that left me giddy with delight.