By MaryYoung

Deconstructing ‘Sideways’

I trust there’s no need for a spoiler alert; anybody who is interested in “Sideways” has seen it already.

I saw the movie soon after its release, but it wasn’t until the DVD came out that I convinced my spouse to sit down with me and watch it. The subject matter did not interest him, especially. But then again, this is a man whose idea of a good glass of wine is Carlo Rossi Paisano.

My husband’s problem with “Sideways,” though, was the characters’ questionable choices: the last fling before Jack’s wedding, the lying and deceit. “There was even someone drinking and driving,” he said. “Why would I respect any of those people?” He thought for a second. “ Well, I guess the women were okay.”

Granted, the characters had problems, and the story is depressing. But I still love the film. It’s one sensual pleasure after another: the jazzy score, the sweeping views of the Pacific Coast Highway and the Santa Ynez Valley. The candlelit evening at Stephanie’s house in the country; the golden morning with Maya padding around her apartment in a big bathrobe. You can just feel the coziness of that robe. You can taste the coffee in that oversized mug.

And of course, there is the vicarious enjoyment of wine. It’s interesting to consider the narrow path that Miles walks between connoisseur and problem drinker. If Miles is an alcoholic, and I think he is, that certainly puts an ominous note on the implied happy ending.

Anyway, I’ve decided “Sideways” is the ultimate baby boomer movie. The characters are reflective and self-absorbed, just like we are. They are close enough to our age that we can relate to them, but young enough to flatter our vanity. It’s comforting to look at Jack’s face, treadworn but still handsome. I even felt reassured at the sight of his jiggling backside in the, uh, jiggling-backside scene.

And maybe it’s an age thing, but I was curiously in tune with Miles’ chronic exasperation. It’s probably just good acting. To be truthful, I also liked watching Paul Giamatti because he looks a lot like his brother Marcus, from TV’s Judging Amy.

Plus, anybody who has spent time as a single adult can relate to the awkwardness of the movie’s first double date. The repartee over dinner was classic. (Though I did wish for a more lingering look at what they were eating with their wine.)

Miles and Jack, Stephanie and Maya - their problems are painfully familiar. Maybe even more so to those of us who came of age in the 1970s. But the movie places just enough distance between them and us to make their problems entertaining. And their story is wrapped in a beautiful package.

I call that a good film.

Mary Young is the Associate Editor of the Oahu Island News. She can be reached at