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Sideways is a supreme vintage and probably the best film of the millennium so far.

A movie about an alcoholic, failed writer who doesn't have much luck in love? Of course I was always going to relate to Sideways. But there's something to enjoy in this gem for everyone, from the frank humour to the incredible performances and the profound sweetness that gradually seeps through the cynicism.

Rarely do you come across another comedy that manages to stir the heartstrings emotionally, or a drama that is not afraid to insert slapstick scenes. Sideways is that oddity, an intelligent, funny, heart-warming film that evokes memories of Woody Allen's best works, but in many ways surpasses even those.

The basis of the print's success lies in a brilliant screenplay, which deservedly won an Oscar. Director Payne and his regular writing partner Jim Taylor adapted an obscure novel into a memorable, unusual road movie. Wine is an essential part of the script, but its taste never suppresses the recognisably human traits of the sublimely portrayed characters.

Dialogues, sometimes lyrical and subtle, at other times brutal and peasant, rarely come to life as efficiently and vividly as Payne and Taylor conjured here from their talented pen. But it’s mostly the last two minutes, as pitch-perfect as movie climaxes come, that turn Sideways from an incredible film into an undisputed masterpiece.

release: 2004

director: Alexander Payne

starring: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh


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