School: University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill
Course: ENGL 105: Kitchen as a Writing Craft
Professor: David Ross
Mr. David Ross
The Comedy is Sideways
Sideways, a 2004 movie directed by Alexander Payne, stars Paul Giamatti as Miles, Thomas Haden Church as Jack, Virginia Madsen as Maya, and Sandra Oh as Stephanie. The movie is about two middle-aged friends who go on a week-long wine tasting trip in Southern California. Miles is a high-school English teacher and Jack is a washed-up actor who once had a major role in a soap opera but now does voice-overs for commercials. The purpose of the trip is to celebrate Jack’s last week of bachelorhood as he is getting married at the end of the week. This movie seems to follow the ups and downs of the protagonists and contains various romantic adventures that contain some comedic relief. This seems to be a sad excuse for a film that is trying to entertain the audience with its comedy but provides great drama and symbolism through its aspect of a journey within a journey.
We hate the two main characters from the start. Miles wakes up with a hangover because he came home late last night from a wine tasting. Outside his house, his car is parked extremely close to the car in front of him; it is almost touching the bumper, which means that he might have driven under the influence the night before. The audience immediately disapproves of Miles’s choices, and we start to develop negative feelings towards him. As he wakes up, he realizes he is late for something. When he gets a phone call from his friend, Jack, he lies to him, telling him that he is already on the road. When he finally gets on the road, he is doing a crossword puzzle as he drives. Right from the beginning, the audience only sees the negative qualities of Miles and we aren’t very fond of him.
As Miles arrives at Jack’s house, Jack is sitting with his future in-laws. Jack is irritated at the fact that Miles arrived late. Miles makes up a lie to explain why he was late, and Jack immediately knows he is lying but does nothing about it. Jack is in a hurry to leave; this shows that Jack does not enjoy spending time with his family. As Miles and Jack go on the road, additional negative qualities are shown. Jack, despite Miles’s strong objections, opens a bottle of champagne while Miles is driving and pours a glass for each of them. Even though Miles objects to opening the bottle, he is not hesitant to accept the glass of champagne as he starts drinking it while driving. The film does a tremendous job of making us hate the two main actors. Furthermore, during the trip they make a detour to Miles’s mom’s house since it is her birthday. Instead of being there to wish her happy birthday, Miles was actually there to steal money from his mom in order to pay for their trip. As the movie progresses, we learn that Jack is a womanizer. His actual purpose in going on this trip is to have meaningless sex one last time before getting married. This intro to the film does a great job of having the audience loathe the two main characters.
Miles and Jack are two very different people. This is first seen in their wine tasting. Miles is very passionate about wine. He is a connoisseur of wine and intricately judges every bottle. He is meticulous and very knowledgeable about different types of wine. This illustrates Miles’s complexity. Jack is the complete opposite. He joins the wine tasting but does not seem to care for it. He thinks that all of the wines taste alike and isn’t as descriptive as Miles. This shows that Jack is a very simple person. Several repeated scenes show Miles taking a small sip and carefully analyzing each wine while Jack swallows the wine in one gulp and says they are all good. The difference in their wine tasting is also reflected on their taste in women. Jack will pursue any type of women, old, young, tall, short, fat, or skinny, while Miles looks for something more. This is...
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