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Sideways (15)
Directed by: Alexander Payne
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

Regular readers will know that these film reviews have been following an Oscars theme for the past few weeks, but by the time you read this article, the 77th Academy Award ceremony will have taken place, and director Alexander Payne will know whether his wonderful film Sideways has won any little golden men.

They would later both agree it's easier to drink wine than snort it
They would later both agree it's easier to drink wine than snort it

Deservedly nominated for Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay, as well as three other awards, Sideways is already no stranger to receiving silverware, with a BAFTA and a Golden Globe safely under its belt.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Rex Pickett, the story follows Miles Raymond (Paul Giamatti) a struggling, divorced writer with a real passion for wine-tasting. Thomas Haden Church plays his friend, an ex soap star, who has resorted to doing voice-over work in commercials and is about to get married.

The film follows Miles over the course of his friend's stag week, as the two of them drive through Southern California visiting vineyards. However, as the film unfolds, it becomes clear that Miles is extremely anxious to hear if his novel is finally going to be published, while his friend is more interested in sowing his wild oats before he ties the knot.

Sideways is pitched as a comedy, and while it is certainly very funny at times, it would better be described as a black comedy, as the humour is very subtle. More than this though, the script, direction and acting have come together to create some startlingly realistic and empathetic characters that you will feel close to very quickly.

Sideways reminded me a great deal of one of my favourite films, Swingers, in that it isn't really about anything, but is purely character driven. The humour has the same blend of subtlety and there is a similar romantic theme that runs through both pieces. The characters are fantastically drawn and intriguing to watch and when that is coupled with the humour and the genuine desire to see what happens to the subjects, the result is a wonderful film that is worth two hours of anyone's time. We can only hope that a low-budget character based film will receive the recognition it deserves on Oscar night instead of being muscled out of the way by heavyweights like Martin Scorsese's The Aviator.

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Length: 123 minutes
Certificate: 15
Official Site: http://www.foxsearchlight.com/sideways/
IMDB Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0375063/
Release Date: 28th January 2005

Top Five Rating: 90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0%90.0% (90.0%)
User Rating: 45.0%45.0%45.0%45.0%45.0%45.0%45.0%45.0%45.0%45.0% (45.0%)

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