I’m a big fan of Alexander Payne’s eccentric humor. His other films, such as “About Schmidt” and “Election”, are known for self-driven characters that take off the wall risks. Payne’s plots are always crazy rides with never ending twists and intelligent laughs. You can expect the same upside down humor with realistic characters and outlandish situations in his new film, “Sideways”, opening nationwide this weekend.

Fans of Paul Giamatti (“American Splendor”, “Duets”) will love watching him as he portrays a self-defeated, wine connoisseur named Miles. Miles is neck high in sour grapes over his divorce and pessimistic about everything in his life. Despite his self-pity, Miles wants to show his good pal Jack (played by Thomas Hayden Church) one last hoorah before he gets married to fiancée Christine. Together they drive to northern California’s wine country in hopes of a good time. Miles wants to show Jack all the great vineyards and get in a few relaxing games of golf. Jack has other plans. Jack wants to get laid, and like a good friend he hopes the same for his involuntarily celibate buddy. With the help of Jack’s hormones, Miles’ structured vacation crashes into a love-story fiasco. These two friends of opposite nature butt heads through infidelity and depression, but still maintain their loyalty towards one another. With Payne directing the action, the resolution rarely turns out how one expects.

This “Odd Couple” type buddy film has all the makings for a successful dramedy. The dialogue is quick and natural, the camera shots are interesting and creative, and the location is beautiful and romantic. What I enjoy most about this film are the down to earth actors playing realistic characters. In fact, the characters lack glamorous, successful careers, and have a similar role to the characters in “About Schmidt” in that they take part in everyday life but the story is taken from a different angle. Payne is a master at examining and portraying human nature in extremes. He gives a character an emotion and lets it loose. He not only does this with the main characters, but with every character.

Although I’m tempted to say this film is great in everyway, I wasn’t a big fan of the road trip in the beginning of the film. Because of it, the story starts off slow, which I found a little boring. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not going to judge a film based on the introduction, but when placed next to Payne’s other works this one doesn’t quite size up. However, if you’re a fan of Alexander Payne or looking for a good laugh, it’s definitely worth seeing this holiday weekend. Besides, you might learn a little about wine.


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