Sideways

2 Stars – Shallow

Somehow when Laurel and Hardy act out two down-and-out characters, everyone laughs.  But, in “Sideways,” which is billed as one of “the funniest movies of the year” and shows us two social loser buddies trying to relive their youth, it comes across sometimes as juvenile and even pathetic.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some funny moments in “Sideways.”  Miles (Paul Giamatti), a wannabe writer and wine aficionado, and Jack (Thomas Haden Church), an aging former Soap Star, take a trip from San Diego to Santa Barbara County to do a little wine tasting.  Along the way the film provides plenty of pratfalls.

This is the weekend before Jack’s wedding.  So, old friend Miles talks Jack into taking a road trip for one last buddy-romp before the knot is tied.  Neither of these friends has chosen each other for reasons of any depth.  They are just old college roommates.  Unfortunately, neither of these 40-somethings ever learned in college (or beyond) what makes for a satisfying life.

Miles has gone through a painful divorce and still doesn’t know why it happened.  Jack was wounded by his own good looks, never believing that he was worth anything unless a woman wanted to sleep with him.  Both think they know each other and both are painfully trapped in their own lonely existence.

So, off to Santa Barbara they go, in search of the perfect weekend in Santa Ynez.  Miles believes that he can share the subtleties of Pinot Noir with Jack, whose own tastes run somewhere below a Bud Light.  Jack wants Miles to “experience the thrill of romance” once again and to come out of his post-marriage funk by sleeping with some beautiful women, not realizing how much Miles longs for a real relationship.  These two cling to each other as “best friends” and yet they hardly have a clue what each other is thinking or feeling.  That may be a cartoon caricature that some people believe about men in general, but it is a tragic and shallow stereotype that leaves us cold.

In between the parochial chortles from those of us who live in Santa Barbara and see this charade of pretense daily, the only “real” moment in the film comes when Miles confronts Jack about his sleeping with a woman he picks up just three days before his wedding.  Miles forces the conversation by letting the new woman in on Jack’s little secret.  Jack, in turn, is oblivious to why this means so much to his friend.  It would all be funny except for the fact that there are an army of men out there in the world who are saying to themselves: “So what’s the big deal?”

What both Jack and Miles ultimately have to discover is that no amount of good wine or impromptu sex will satisfy their longing for completeness.  The California Dream drives Miles and Jack, but in the end it only something much deeper that will get them where they want to go.

 

Discussion:

  1. The stereotypical male makes for tired comedy.  How have you found this stereotype to be both humorous and damaging in your own relationships?
  2. The longing for real life drives many of us on literal or figurative road trips.  In what way has your longings driven you?  Have you found a destination that satisfies?
  3. The fact that Miles and Jack think they are friends and yet they really don’t know each other is a sad fact of many relationships.  Are there people in your own life who think they know you, but don’t really have a clue of what’s happening within?  Would they say the same thing about you?
  4. In what ways do you think the “California Dream” is a part of the problem or a part of the solution to our longings?
Posted on June 1, 2011 and filed under 2 STARS, SHALLOW.