‘Sideways’

Kate and I finally got around to seeing “Sideways,” a movie of which several friends (including Pete) have spoken very highly. I loved it and would readily see it again. It’s got a consistently skewed and funny take on people — well, men and women — and how they do and don’t fit together. And exploring a larger vein, it focuses on the struggle to realize some small part of your deepest dream, whatever it is.

The highlight of the script is a rather short scene in which Miles, a disappointed novelist and emotionally damaged middle-school English teacher, and Maya, a waitress he’s met on his winery expeditions up to Santa Barbara from Los Angeles, talk about what it is that they love about wine. He loves pinot noir because of the very challenges it presents to even grow, let alone turn into fine wine. She sees wine — good wine — as a living thing, following a life cycle that’s strikingly similar to that of a human being. It’s poetic wine talk — people really talking about the beauty they see in the vintner’s art — but the characters are really talking about themselves.

The one really unsatisfying note in the picture is the character of Miles, whom the story turns around. The guy is in real trouble with alcohol and with life. By the end you almost forget a heart-rending scene in which he steals several hundred dollars from his mother, who’s quite the drinker herself. The script hints at some extraordinary darkness and pain in his past, but it really never takes on why he’s headed over the edge or the role drinking plays in his plight.

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