Wednesday, March 02, 2005


Published on IMDb, the Internet Movie Database

No Man is an island

This is one of those films which ever so gradually creeps up on you as you watch it until it grabs you hard and won't let go. With Hollywood often (wrongly in my view) accused of only making movies with big names, big sets and big "stories" it is refreshing to see and thoroughly enjoy a film which has none of these. The performances are as honest as they are understated. Thomas Haden Church's Jack is an utterly believable Don Juan with the morals of a rat and the sensitivity of a two ton truck. And yet you can't help liking him. Paul Giamatti as Miles has all the insecurities (and some) all men of his age facing mid life crises. The stunningly beautiful Virginia Madsen, scarred by a failed marriage and a little lost, is just wonderful as Maya and is probably the character that you are most rooting for and want to be happy. Sandra Oh's Stephanie is kooky and slightly scary but proves to be as vulnerable as all the other leading characters.

Vulnerability is the lead motif of the movie with all of the characters incomplete in some way (as we all are in real life I think).Sideways really does run the full gamut of emotions and very often you don't know whether to laugh or cry – indeed the characters themselves are always teetering along the brink between depression and elation. The golf scene is so funny that it had me hollering out loud – but again its denouement (when Jack charges up the fairway to threaten the fourball behind who had driven a "hurry up" ball at them) is wonderfully manic.Is there a moral from Sideways? I'm not sure that there is. Perhaps (without being too pretentious about it) it is Donne's "No man is an island". Alone each of the characters is vulnerable, weak, confused but put them with others and their personalities and their potential are realised (for better or worse).

Sam North in his article on Road Movies says about Sideways that "It's an escape from reality into unreality, but oddly enough, given their ages, it is also a coming of age picture. The road, as often stated, educates us, makes us face up to who we are and what we are escaping." I think that is very incisive and that Sideways is a classic of the road movie genre. It is also quite un-modern, by which I mean that although it is of the new millennium it could actually have been made at any time in the last thirty years or so. It is not a film that reflects the times we live in as a film that reflects the human condition at almost any time. Superb.