With each of my hobbies or interests, I tend to develop a slight obsessive compulsive bent (a topic to be elaborated in a following post). When I neglect them or feel as if one hobby is circumventing another, I get panicky. So when it dawned on me that the last movie I saw was Maria, Full of Grace around two months ago, I furiously tore through the "Coming Attractions" sections of my favorite film sites to "bridge the gap" before it became a chasm. (During the summer I would watch at least one film a week, as well as several episodes of the Sopranos.)
I believe what really frightened me was my recent enamorment with cooking. When my Internet "favorites" list became overcrowded with food blogs, cheese sites, and the like, I became wary of an eclipse. I needn't worry though, thanks to Director Alexander Payne. His newest feature, Sideways, combines my yen for good cinema with my foodie flare. We're talking about a film that subtly gells comedy and drama, a rarity in itself, and whose main characters embark on a wine and dine extravaganza. You couldn't ask for more. Although I have never even tasted the stuff - cross my heart - hearing the way Miles (Paul Giamatti) soliloquizes about Pinot Noir brought visions of vineyards into my head. I can't wait to go on my first midlife crisis vineyard tour!
I must applaud Mr. Payne's skill, he was able to elicit the necessary emotions on both sides of the emotional spectrum through the focused crafting and exploiting of multiple personalities. Just imagine how banal Thomas Haden Church's bachelor role could have been in the hands of lesser director. Instead, Church's character has a dynamicism mirrored by Giamatti's character - both have obsessive traits thanks to their emotionally immaturity. I am placing the film firmly in my 2004 Top 5 - right up there with Eternal Sunshine and Maria, Full of Grace.
I'll end this post with a fitting encapsulation of Sideways by the sometimes great film critic, Carrie Rickey: "Like any good story, a fine wine has three acts. If Sideways were a wine, its foretaste would be a flutter of nuttiness, its middle would have spicy nuances, and its aftertaste would be lingering and sweet."