I saw Sideways in video on the weekend, and I've decided that this modest, independent film is one that conjures up pretty polemic viewpoints: in other words, you either love it or you hate it.
While at Starbucks, a friend of mine asked the guy in line behind us what his favourite movie of last year was, but after a lot of humming and hawing, he couldn't come up with any names.
"But I walked out of Sideways! Hated it!" he proudly proclaimed.
Another friend rented it with her boyfriend; they both hated it. Another friend saw it in the theatre and loved it. My beloved saw it on video, and loved it. Me? Didn't like it. But that's not to say it's a bad movie.
My problem, as a movie viewer, is that I have to identify, or at least like, the characters - at least one of them. I had a hard time doing so with this movie. And that, as I've already said, is my problem.
But that's not to say that it wasn't a very well written movie with great dialogue (if you like dialogue movies - another thing I'm not a big fan of - think Whit Stilman's Metropolitan and you'll know what I'm talking about), that also happens to be information-dense on the topic of wine. This film has brought terms like Pinot Noir into North American's everyday vocabularies, no mean feat at all.
And the acting is very convincing. Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen (Michael's sister), and Sandra Oh (director and screenwriter Alexander Payne's soon-to-be-ex-wife) relentlessly expose their characters' regrets and self-loathing for all the world to see. The lowered expectations of these characters is one thing, but it's the self-centred way in which they conduct their lives that I ultimately had the most trouble accepting.
But the critics loved it, giving it the Academy Award and a Writers Guild Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and two Golden Globes (Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture). And the fact that I'm still thinking about it four days later?
That might be something worth looking into...