Monday, March 14, 2005

Sideways: A review.

Like just about every other wine-swilling member of my demographic cohort, I saw Sideways last year and enjoyed it. I'm not sure that it would have lived up to all of the hype, but luckily I saw it before I knew anything about it. Now I've read the novel by Rex Pickett. I'm not sure what prompted me to pick it up, but there was a copy around, so . . . . (Zinfandel meets the same fate around me.)

The novel wasn't published when the movie's director, Alexander Payne, read a copy and decided it should be a film, and the book is much like the movie. Pickett's acknowledgements thank Payne for his faithful adaptation, but if you've read through the book to get there, you hardly need this pointed out.

You can find lists of the differences between the movie and the book on the web if you like; most are fairly subtle. The plot was simplified for the big screen, cutting a number of scenes entirely. The memorable dialogue betwen Miles and Maya after they dine together the first time was written for the movie, but in print the two drunkenly fool around that night. It's a little easier to understand what Maya might see in Miles, since he's somewhat less of a loser. The relationship between Miles and Jack is generally more nuanced; the strains and differences between them are developed in a way that ultimately makes their friendship (and Jack) more believabel and meaningful. However, Maya and Terra (who becomes Stephanie in the movie) are cardboard characters, with only a whiff to them of the characters played by Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh.

The book shares the movie's love of wine, with admirable accuracy and attention to detail, though like listening to wine snobs talk about what they're drinking, I'm not sure it helps you pick up anything you're not already tasting. Pickett has said that he think the setting is particularly important, and I think that's right -- it's hard to imagine the movie being set anywhere else, and this is even more true of the book. It makes me want to go back to the Central Coast and drink some pinot.

My verdict on the book is that it's quaffable but not transcendent. I enjoyed it, but I'm not ready to spring for a case.

Here are an interview with Rex Pickett on Fresh Air, and an article about him in the Guardian. And here are the movie's web site and a trailer.

Not bad thoughts, although I think I caught a subtle redolence of old urine (not mine) and cowpoop infused hay cautiously wafting from your review. Perhaps if you had served us a nice '97 Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages it would have made the read more tolerably.
Pending developments in blogging technology, All Intensive Purposes is strictly b.y.o.b.
too bad. it might improve the signal to noise ratio. Certainly a little wine wouldn't hurt it. [sigh]
I recommend pairing the next few posts with a Francis Coppola Diamond Claret 2002.
That would be nice for a Monday, but I'm thinking that a 2003 Sangiovese Red Willow Vineyard
Columbia Winery or 2002 Palacios Remondo Rioja are more likely tonight.
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