Friday, July 08, 2005

Finally watched Sideways

The movie Sideways received a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In other words, 98 out of 100 critics liked the movie.

With an endorsement like that, I was really expecting something, so maybe it was inevitable that I'd be disappointed. I've tried to run through the movie in my head, to recall something entertaining about it. There was one scene where they try to drive a car into a tree and they miss. That was kinda funny.

The movie is the story of a divorced public school teacher (played by Paul Giamatti) who aspires to be a writer. He's a pitiful, but not particularly sympathetic, character. He and his friend, an actor (played by Thomas Hayden Church), head off to Napa Valley for a vacation in the week before the actor's wedding.

The teacher spends most of the week whining, while the actor spends most of the week trying to get laid. The actor succeeds, but manages to get himself into a number of sticky situations along the way, managing to cause a lot of trouble and emotional pain within the emotionally sensitive people around him. As such, he's a bull in an emotional china shop. He doesn't really seem to have any feelings outside of the groinal region. The actor is even less sympathetic than the teacher, and by the time he gets his nose broken, you realize he thoroughly deserves it.

The teacher has this dream of publishing a book, and he's constantly on the phone with his agent. Judging by the size of the manuscript, the book would run several thousand pages. Waiting for word on publication is a huge source of tension for the teacher, as is the memory of his ex-wife. He's desperate to get his book published, and to get back with the ex-wife. As you watch, you realize that his whole life has probably been like this. He is, and always has been, all about waiting, and never about being. He somehow seems to live off depressive energy. Near the end of the movie, he's sitting in front of his public school classroom hating his life, not appreciating the golden opportunity he has to help a roomful of children appreciate literature. Every time you think the teacher might make a decent go of it with a new potential love interest, you know he'll eventually screw it up.

This movie could've taken a sympathetic or a lampooning look at these pitiful people. It doesn't do either. It just lays out a bunch of reasons to not have any sympathy for either of these two idiots. By the end of the movie, you want the actor to get beaten up a lot more, and you kinda want the writer to be put out of his misery.


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