Alexander Payne, Sideways
Initially I thought this film was a parable of middle age… the desperate last fling, the overdriven connoisseurship, the post-divorce depressive ennui, the flabby flesh of a jilted lover rubbing up against your car window (a Saab, of course). And then I thought, Parable, nay, this film is totally, consummately Middle Age. I’ve never seen a film focus and concentrate on the tropes and mores of the middle period so exhaustively. Honestly. And hilariously. Perfectly pitched and paced, almost every scene had an infusion of natural humour though the film wasn’t played for broad comedy. Giamatti is excellent and convinced, perfectly cast. Haden Church does the Jock with enormous, precise glee. Virginia Madsen shines since… what, Electric Dreams, Dune
Payne directs for softness both in terms of drama and film stock. Though never lumpen; every shot has a quiet cinematography to it; I noticed that some of his pans end on nicely arranged or balanced pictures, Giamatti in left of frame, bowling alley or sky on the right, etc. All the scenes were neat vignettes, gently toned and tanned, perfectly scripted and character-conducive. Everything played in an environment of familiarity without kitsch or sentiment, and drifted down along its easygoing plot like a smudged tissue out to sea.
But in all, I hadn’t laughed so much since Kentucky Fried Panda: "It's Finger Ling-Ling Good!"