Jeff Labrecque
November 19, 2004 AT 05:00 AM EST

…or is Alexander Payne’s Sideways so money? Payne’s first cinematic trip to California is eerily reminiscent of 1996’s Swingers, right down to the pathetic phone calls our struggling artists (Paul Giamatti/Jon Favreau) make in romantic desperation. Both pine for lost love, golf badly, and road-trip with a hip pal (Thomas Haden Church/ Vince Vaughn), who strives to get his buddy laid. In the end, pretty women (Virginia Madsen/Heather Graham) redeem our heroes, and we learn that nice guys don’t always finish last. Like a ’61 Cheval Blanc, a theme that’s aged to perfection.

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