Being the last on the list of that top five pictures I’ve got to see, there was this overtly ridiculous anxiety on how this film that I was about to indulge myself into is gonna be. Not to help soothing and calming down my jolt was the constant reminder from fellow film enthusiasts like Rio or Ve who kept bugging me to watch this film for the sake of their forecast on one eagerly-awaited event on Monday.
So there I was, not being late as usual, nicely sat on a side-seat near the passage way to drive myself over SIDEWAYS.
Little did I know that the road trip I was about to ride on is going to be the most thrilling film-watching experiences one has ever taken in his life.
Sideways focuses its story on a wine-tasting trip taken by Miles, an aspiring writer and a struggling English teacher who decides to throw this trip a week prior to his buddy’s wedding, Jack, a has-been soap opera actor forced to do commercial voice-over work. Not merely being a wine-tasting, scenery-viewing road trip, it has emerged into a journey of their lifetime with several encounters that would change their perspective on lives, particularly from the presence of Maya and Stephanie, two women differ in a great stark of contrast from one another, who both contribute possible changes of turn in their seemingly-destined bleak future. Of course, the choice lies on both men’s hands then to opt for the change, or heading straight to the planned ones.
Now you must be tickled: where’s the humor, pal?
Now I can only ask back: do we need to intentionally create one? For the fabricated ones would only evoke silliness?
Surely one or two slapstick scenes are made to enlighten this already-enjoyable film, but the rest of the comedy part is scattered evenly throughout the entire 120-minute, balanced nicely with some touching scenes that, well, seem ordinary to some extent. Just like our lives itself, there are times we may be laughing over-the-top over other people’s misfortunate and within seconds we can turn in bedazzlement to sympathize with it, and times when we feel completely being nothing next to other people’s well-headed lives.
Just like me, and mostly, everybody else.
Therefore I salute Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor for consistently uplifting our egoistical mood through their off-beat works that strike our chord to appreciate and embrace the life. From the hilarious Citizen Ruth to Reese Witherspoon’s innocent ambitions of taking part in a high school’s Election to divinely somber About Schmidt, here are two filmmakers riding high on the spirit of true story-telling a la 70’s films. Naivety is the forbidden word never to be applied here, just plainly real and never be deceiving or degrading or even insulting.
Even more, those stated effect is successfully achieved through the top-notch class acts from this group of underdog actors who, like it or not, always get overlooked and under appreciated. After all, in the world of Botox-perfected faces, who would’ve thought that Paul Giamatti could fit into description of the leading man who can carry a film on his shoulder? Or the already-a-has-been Thomas Haden Church who seems to be playing himself in the character Jack, so much so that the act itself gives me a jittery feeling? Or Virginia Madsen, best remembered for her forgettable turn in Candyman? Or Sandra Oh, always-second-rated actress who almost hijacks Under the Tuscan Sun completely from Diane Lane?
Together this foursome created chemistry unlike any other buddy-themed films ever made or even attempted to. Led by Giamatti as Miles, the model, picture perfect of depressive man heading towards directionless ambition who has to surrender to the cruelty of life, who simply yearn to be recognized for his talent, yet never dares himself to plunge and take the risk, which may lead to success. Every single smirk, smile, change of expression shown in Giamatti’s face that often got close-up in this film will reveal the truest character of this role.
If what you read all above will mostly strike your chord, worry not. Or even if you still find those words are plain and ordinary, worry not either. For its warmth and tender humor derived from life experience, for its believable performances from superb cast ensemble, for scores and music that never alienate the scenes the music is supposed to accompany with, for the most humane story of any films recently released, for a clear direction that inspires, I present my whole-hearted vote for Best Picture: