Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2004. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Michael London Productions, Sideways Productions Inc.. Screenplay by Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor, based on the novel by Rex Pickett. Cinematography by Phedon Papamichael. Produced by Michael London. Music by Rolfe Kent. Production Design by Jane Ann Stewart. Costume Design by Wendy Chuck. Film Editing by Kevin Tent. Academy Awards 2004. AFI Awards 2004. Boston Film Critics Awards 2004. Golden Globe Awards 2004. Screen Actors Guild Awards 2004. Toronto International Film Festival 2004.
One week before his best friend (Thomas Haden Church) is due to be married, a high school English teacher/aspiring writer (Paul Giamatti) takes a trip with him to the wine regions of northern California for a week-long, upscale bachelor party. Naturally, no matter how cerebral they try to make their trip, the end result is still a couple of overgrown bachelors looking to party with ladies. Church can’t wait to get himself hooked up with the hot gal (Sandra Oh) who works at one of the vineyards they visit, while Giamatti has trouble brewing up the courage to ask the gorgeous waitress (Virginia Madsen) at his favourite restaurant for a date. Church avoids telling Oh about his upcoming nuptials, while Giamatti (whose nebbishness has reached a genius level of artistry) can’t get over his previous wife or his own feelings of failure in his career. This wonderfully etched comedy/drama is brought to life brilliantly by some incredible performances, most especially Church as the surfer teenager caught in a middle-aged, over-the-hill man’s body (who doesn’t realize he’s too old to use terms like “Dude!”), and a luminous Madsen (generally underrated throughout her entire career) finally getting her due in a beautifully rich, subtle role. Director Alexander Payne has once again created a multi-faceted affair that is rife with memorable wit and genuine emotional poignancy.