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Film: Sideways

A 2004 comedy/drama. Middle-aged BFFs Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church) take off to California's wine country for the week as Miles's gift to Jack before he is to be married on Saturday with Miles as best man. Both, however, have a hidden agenda: Miles just wants to drink as he's clinically depressed about his divorce (two years and counting) and failure to get his novels published; Jack wants to get laid one more time before settling down with one woman. During the week, they encounter two women: one is Maya (Virginia Madsen), a kind-hearted, beautiful, and intelligent woman who Miles has longed after for a while (not in the least because she's just as knowledgeable about wine as he is) but Can Not Spit It Out. The other is Stephanie (Sandra Oh), a spirited MILF wine pourer who instantly takes Jack up on his charming advances. Hilarity, heartwarming, and bittersweetness ensues. And wine drinking. Lots of it.

It opened to universal acclaim, winning the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as Golden Globes for Best Picture- Musical/Comedy and Best Screenplay, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Ensemble Cast, which was notable since that ensemble was made up of only four actors instead of the usual loads and loads of actors. It was also a huge success, being Fox's biggest indie hit ever at the time, scoring $70 million domestically after an initial limited release turned into an eventual wide release. It elevated Paul Giamatti from character actor (as seen in films like The Negotiator and The Truman Show) to billed actor in more mainstream films. It put the careers of Thomas Haden Church and Sandra Oh on the map after a career in bit roles; Church nabbed the role as The Sandman in Spider-Man 3 based off his performance here and Sandra Oh landed a key role in Grey's Anatomy shortly after the film's release. It also resurrected the career of Virginia Madsen, an '80s sex symbol who had been relegated over the years as simply "Michael Madsen's sister".

Interest in wine and tours shot up like crazy after the film came out; it even affected the sales of certain wines. Miles's love of pinot noir caused that wine's sales to soar, while his disparaging of Merlot ("If anyone orders Merlot, I'm leaving; I am NOT drinking any FUCKING Merlot!") caused Merlot's sales to dip, although it continues to be the most prevalent wine in the States.

Also bizarrely got a remake by the Japanese.

This movie contains examples of:

  • The Alcoholic: Miles.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: Miles pleads Jack not to do this in wine country, being the Insufferable Genius Miles is.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: The waitress at the barbeque restaurant. ('Betcha that chick's two tons of fun.')
  • Berserk Button: Miles will not drink any fucking merlot. He'd also appreciate it if you didn't bring up his wife getting re-married or his affair during that marriage.
  • Big "Shut Up!": Miles when Jack won't stop talking while he's trying to take a golf swing.
    Miles: Shut up, shut up, SHUT UP! JESUS CHRIST, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, WOULD YOU PLEASE JUST SHUT UP! FUCK!
  • Book Ends: The movie starts and ends with a knock on the door.
  • Can Not Spit It Out: Miles's affection for Maya.
  • Comically Missing the Point: After learning his latest novel will not be published, Miles bemoans that he's so insignificant that he cannot commit suicide. Instead of sympathetic uplifting, Jack helpfully points out that John Kennedy Toole of A Confederacy of Dunces committed suicide before he was published.
  • Creator Cameo: Off-screen, but it's Rex Pickett, who wrote the novel the film is based on, that hits Miles's golf shot that smacks into the rude golfer's cart.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Implied with Miles after Jack and Stephanie go off on their own. He also drinks wine while reading the articles.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Miles when sober.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: The film ends with Miles looking to rekindle their friendship.
  • Did You Just Have Sex?: Jack wants details after Miles come back from a night with Maya.
  • Doorstopper: Miles lends Maya a manuscript of his novel. He gives her a decently sized chunk of paper...then goes back for another one just as big.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Miles does this often. Very often.
  • DVD Commentary: Giamatti and Church do one for the film that is almost as hilarious as the film itself, thanks to their endless Self-Deprecation.
  • The Eeyore: Miles when drunk or depressed.
  • Establishing Character Moment: At the beginning of the movie, a hungover Miles gives an excuse to Jack about why he's going to be late picking him up, and lazily goes about his morning routine with no urgency. When arriving at Jack's house, he blames it on bumper-to-bumper traffic (it was smooth sailing on the freeway). Jack has been friends long enough with Miles to see right through it. Invoked by Giamatti on the commentary when he points out Miles prefers the "dark" cake for Jack's wedding as well.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: Jack claims to be this.
  • Everyone Can See It: Jack immediately notices the UST between Miles and Maya; Jack even tries to help Miles with this.
  • Everyone Is Single: To Maya and Stephanie, this looks to be this trope in perfect form, but of course we know that isn't true when it relates to Jack.
  • Executive Meddling: In-universe: A publication house passes on Miles' novel, saying that they liked it but did not know how to market it.
  • Falling in Love Montage: Miles and Maya spend a nice day-and-a-half falling for each other to Rolfe Kent's beautiful jazzy piano score.
  • Fan Disservice: If you came to see Virginia Madsen naked, you came to the wrong place. If you came to see M.C. Gainey naked...
  • Fashion Dissonance: Jack is watching some sort of spring break event on TV, but the hairstyles and blindingly-neon swimwear is clearly early-90's. The filmmakers had asked MTV for usage of spring break footage, but the channel was only willing to give them dated material free-of-charge.
  • The Film of the Book
  • A Friend in Need:
    • Jack when he asks Miles to go back to the house of the waitress he slept with to retrieve his wallet, which has his wedding rings in them. Miles is in disbelief, but relents after an impassioned plea.
    • To a lesser extent, Jack. He's always — well, almost always — looking out for Miles to make sure his friend doesn't tip further into alcohol abuse and depression.
  • Funny Background Event: When the quartet are hanging at Stephanie's house and Miles and Maya go back into the living room, you can hear Jack doing his advertising voiceover while fooling around with Stephanie in her room ("Now for a low, low 5.9%...")
  • Get It Over With: Miles's response to Jack's request to total his car once more to look like they were in an accident bad enough to explain Jack's facial injuries that he actually received from another woman.
  • Gilligan Cut: Jack is already miffed that Miles is stopping at his mom's house on her birthday on the way to wine country, and gets moreso when Miles takes her up on her offer for food.
    Mrs. Raymond: Make yourselves comfortable! You boys hungry?
    Miles: Yeah, I'm hungry! (Jack shoots him an annoyed look) Just a snack.
    (cut to them finishing off a buffet of food hours later with Jack shooting a Death Glare across the table)
  • Handsome Lech: Jack. All it takes is a smile and some banter and he's in.
  • Heroic BSOD:
    • Miles has one when Jack reveals Miles' ex-wife is getting re-married and Jack held that information back.
    • Then another after Miles tells Maya that Jack is getting married, which causes her to break contact with him. Miles even curls up in the fetal position on his motel bed, although it's played for laughs.
    Jack: Let me call you back...it's OK, it's just Miles, he's having one of his breakdowns.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Miles wants to stop in Oxnard to see his mom (and more importantly, steal trip money), Jack is annoyed before Miles cuts him off saying it's her birthday. Jack apologizes and asks how old she is, to which Miles offers a disinterested "Oh, seventy....something" and signs and seals her birthday card in the parking lot.
  • "I Know What We Can Do" Cut: After one of the BSOD moments above, Jack says he knows what Miles needs, and the scene shifts to Jack taking Miles to the unfortunately-named Frass Canyon winery. A deleted scene also shows Jack taking Miles to Champs Sports for new shoes as a payoff for an earlier line in the movie; it's also why Miles is holding the store bag when they arrive back at the inn.
  • I'm a Man, I Can't Help It: Jack's rationalization to getting laid before getting married.
  • Insufferable Genius: Miles. It's so deep that the one of the main reasons he can't let go of his ex and his attraction to Maya is that they're both equally astute about wine as he is.
    • A visual example, pointed out on the DVD commentary, is that Miles always does the Times crossword puzzle in pen.
  • Jerk Ass: Both Miles and Jack have traits of this; Miles steals money from his mother for the trip, Jack has a goal of sleeping with other women before he gets married. It is one of the film's greatest triumphs that they win us over as eventual jerks with a heart of gold.
  • Karma Houdini: Jack, for the most part. Despite sleeping with two different women on the trip, including the day before his wedding and lying about it to his fiancee, he ends up happily married to her as scheduled. Prior this though, when one of those women learns he's getting married, Jack gets his face smashed, so he doesn't escape karma entirely.
  • The Lad-ette: Stephanie, who rides motorcycles, smokes weed, drinks, and is in as constant a state of horny as Jack.
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Jack believes this for Miles when he's depressed after a night at Maya's.
  • Love Epiphany: Only when Jack loses his wedding rings does he fully realize how much his fiancee and his impending marriage mean to him.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: Jack does this to Miles's car to give an explanation to his fiancee how he bashed his face in, instead of the actual story that the girl he hooked up with during the week did that to him upon learning of said impending nuptials.
  • Meaningful Echo: The knocking that opens and closes the film.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Are you a sad, melancholic would-be author? Then there's an impossibly gorgeous blonde out there waiting to fall in love with you.
  • My Greatest Failure: Miles's book doesn't get published. His agent even expresses sympathy that he's written "a really good book with no home."
  • Mythology Gag: Shares the same universe as Election, since both films were directed and partially written by Alexander Payne. Look for the principal from the high school from Election at the country club, who even appears in the credits as "Vacationing Dr. Walt Hendricks".
    (Jack and Miles are talking about Maya while walking by a golfer and his son)
    Jack: Don't you just want to feel that cozy little box grip down on your johnson?
    Vactioning Dr. Walt Hendricks: Hey, you mind keeping it down, buddy?
  • Naked People Are Funny: The scene in which Miles has to retrieve Jack's wallet, walks in on a couple having sex and is chased off by the naked husband.
  • Naughty by Night: According to Jack, this is Stephanie. ("She is NASTY, Miles! Nasty, nasty, nasty!")
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Stephanie beats the crap out of Jack after learning that he's engaged, forcing him to go to the ER to fix his face.
  • Noodle Incident: It is mentioned only once that Miles had an affair with someone else during the downfall of his marriage.
  • Now or Never Kiss: Miles tries this at one point. Maya elects to leave immediately, but gives him a pity hug and peck before departing.
  • Odd Couple: Miles and Jack have very few things, if anything, in common, and yet have remained best friends since being college roommates.
  • Oh, Crap: Miles's look when he accidentally slips to Maya that Jack is getting married.
  • One Last Fling: Jack's mission for the trip.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Maya's capping sentence to her monologue to Miles, describing how wine just coming off its peak into its decline tastes "so fucking good"; she's also implying to Miles she thinks the same of him as she does wine.
    • Also, when she accuses Miles of not revealing that Jack was engaged while screwing her friend until after Miles slept with her: "But you wanted to fuck me first!" It's the bluntly honest use of the word that makes Miles more ashamed of himself.
    • Miles' use of it emphasizes his disdain of Merlot ("I am NOT drinking any FUCKING Merlot!")
  • Right Through the Wall: A nice conversation between Miles and Maya turns into awkward silence as the lovemaking between Jack and Stephanie in the other room suddenly becomes audible.
  • Road Movie: Slightly subverted in that the journey isn't part of the plot itself, just as a means for the characters to get away from it all.
  • Running Gag: Jack's Noob responses to Miles' wine critiques ("Tastes pretty good to me!"), as well as telling everyone that Miles is a published author when that is not true.
  • Scenery Porn: The luscious cinematography of the beautiful Santa Barbara County wine country.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Miles and Jack, respectively.
  • Serious Business: Miles and wine.
  • Sex Equals Love: Miles and Maya.
  • Shipper on Deck: Jack for Miles/Maya.
  • Side Effects Include...: Invoked when Jack is reciting one of the adverts he did.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Maya.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Averted in that the two women in the story are crucial in the Character Development for the two male leads.
  • Sorry to Interrupt: Miles when he walks in on Jack and Stephanie. ("Not now, not now!")
  • Subtext: Miles and Maya's conversation on the porch about their love of wine.
  • Super Senses: Miles when it comes to wine; he can even detect vegetables and cheeses in wine. Compare to real wine tasters, who have been known to lambast wine from one bottle and simultaneously lend glowing praise to another bottle from the exact same batch, simply because some bright spark managed to convince them that the second bottle was from a vintage that cost $30 more.
  • Television Geography: Averted for most of the film; most of the locales are real (such as the Hitching Post restaurant), in the correct places, and some even use their actual employees. Notable exceptions would be that Miles' apartment complex in San Diego and a panning shot of Miles' mother's complex in Oxnard are actually in Santa Maria, CA.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Nearly every key plot point and revelation is found in the trailer, including the women finding out Jack is getting married, and that Jack indeed ends up getting married in the end.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: Miles and Maya, which their friends quickly notice.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Jack and Miles.
  • Wedding Ring Defense: Discussed by Jack (who provides that page quote).
  • What Does She See in Him?: Part of Miles' reluctance to pursue Maya is that he feels she's a bit out of his league. After all, she is a middle-aged hottie, and he's, well, Paul Giamatti.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Jack gives him a few WTH remarks (or more like "What the fuck?!") when he's exasperated about Miles not making a move on Maya because of his depressed yearning for his ex. Maya gives him a particularly scathing one after she finds out Miles had been withholding the fact Jack is getting married on Saturday and is just messing around with Stephanie under the guise of something serious between them.
    Miles: Please believe me, Maya, I was going to tell you last night, but—
    Miles (defeated): Maya....no.
    Maya: Yeah.
  • Wine Is Classy: The Movie!
  • Woman Scorned: Stephanie's reaction to learning Jack's getting married in a few days? She pounds his face in with her motorcycle helmet.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Verbalized word-for-word from Jack to Miles; he elaborates that it will be his gift to his best man to help him get laid during the trip.

Finding NeverlandAcademy AwardCrash
ShutterFilms of 2000 - 2004 Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

alternative title(s): Sideways
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