(out of 5)
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.
Fox Searchlight Pictures, Michael London Productions, Sideways Productions Inc.
Directed by Alexander Payne
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