Sideways

I can’t go along with my colleagues who regard Alexander Payne’s entertaining but familiar comedy as one of 2004′s best movies: it lacks the insolence of his Election and the freshness of his work with Kathy Bates in About Schmidt. A depressive, divorced unpublished novelist (American Splendor’s Paul Giamatti) and a cheerful, horny former TV star (Thomas Haden Church) who’s about to be married embark on a tour of the California wine country that includes sexual adventures. The performances of both leads (especially Church), Virginia Madsen, and Sandra Oh are effective, and Payne does know how to capture two kinds of male menopause. But I can’t say he ever surprised me. R, 123 min. (JR)

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