Wednesday, May 11, 2005


Watched "Sideways" last weekend. I liked it but it is too accepting of the stereotypes of successes and failures. The characters fail to see that they are the victims of artificial definitions of success and happiness that society perpetuates. That is probably realistic as we are not dealing with exceptional characters. However, the point is that there's no indication that Payne sees through those issues either, wants to see his audience think about them and denounce them in any way.

Miles (Paul Giamatti) , a talented and even potentially great writer, thinks he has something important to say but does not make any effort to connect to his students. He accepts the fact that he will be a loser if he remains a middle-school English teacher and will be successful only if some publishing executive, who couldn't care less about what he has to say, randomly decides to publish his first novel. He evaluates his life in terms of what society thinks it should be. In doing so he misses out on a great opportunity to "touch each and every one of his students", to paraphrase Dewey(Jack Black) in School Of Rock. His only hope for some redemption is to find an individual sensitive beautiful white woman who will "get" him.

Even the other characters are very familiar - sensitive woman who can appreciate the worth of a failed artist, the Asian woman who felt deceived when what she thought was real love ended up being a series of sexual encounters, a horny simpleton all-American middle-aged man who is looking for a good time but does not really have any guts to change his life in any meaningful way.

Payne does not really challenge or question the status quo which Linklater, to take a random example, relentlessly does in his films. Linklater consistently looks for those rare precious moments (Before sunrise, Before sunset) which make life meaningful and worth living. His "loser"s (Slackers, Dazed and confused) unapologetically look at life from a completely different perspective. Even in a mainstream film like School Of Rock he manages to shake the status quo. Sideways remains merely a collection of somewhat interesting, funny and quirky observations about the life of some characters who are almost stereotypical. It does not make us ponder over the American social and economic structures which create those characters and stereotypes. It would not have been bad in itself unless Payne seemed to be capable of a lot more and if the film was not hailed by a wide range of critics as the "best film of 2004".

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