Sideways: Merie W. Wallace
EW Staff
August 11, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Sideways

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
124 minutes
Limited Release Date
10/22/04
performer
Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh
director
Alexander Payne
distributor
Fox Searchlight Pictures
author
Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
genre
Comedy, Drama

We gave it an A

Director Alexander Payne says he’s made a buddy comedy. Sure, in the same way 1999’s wickedly dark ”Election” was a teen movie. And the plot, based on the novel by Rex Pickett, sounds Payne-ful: Paul Giamatti (whose role George Clooney reportedly was interested in) is a depressed divorcé who takes his altar-bound friend (Thomas Haden Church) on a wine-tasting week that results in bachelor-party debauchery. ”I play this guy who’s cultivated this ersatz sophistication — I’m a writer! A wine expert! — but I’m just a failed writer and a drunk,” says Giamatti. ”We’ll see if people think that’s funny. Though I still say Payne should have gone with Clooney.” With his fourth feature, Payne isn’t messing too much with the sardonic style that’s earned him acclaim — and decent box office. In fact, there may even be a little overlap with 2002’s ”About Schmidt.” ”I show my bare ass in one scene,” says Giamatti. ”But hopefully not in a disturbing, Kathy Bates-in-a-hot-tub way.”

WHAT’S AT STAKE ”Both ‘Election’ and ‘About Schmidt’ doubled their money,” says Payne. ”As long as I can keep that going, all is well.”

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