DVD Rating: ****1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Read Angus Wolfe Murray's film review of Sideways

Audio commentaries tend to be anecdotal, informative, chattermongery, or bland as wax. This one is a hoot. For the first couple of minutes Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church can't stop laughing. It's a good start, but it gets better.

The humour is self-deprecating, sexist and deliciously childish. Their use of language, as in "a crescent of middle-aged doughiness" (Church describing Church), can be inspirational, as each tries to outwit the other with an even more inventive adjective ("the Hugh Hefnerian gleam").

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They cannot for one moment be serious, even in the serious bits. "I'm riding low with my pants there," Church says. He's constantly commenting on the wreck of his body, or of Jack's facile attempts at casual seduction.

"Have you noticed how many times I scratch my face?"

Giamatti checks himself out on screen.

"I'm working on a pair of perky man breasts, aren't I?"

When the girls turn up, they are lost for words. The first sight of Virginia Madsen has Church cooing, "Ohhhhhh... let's just swim..." Sandra Oh ("our Korean/Canadian") stimulates what he calls "the whiff of lust" and, later, when she gets up from the table, close to the camera, wearing a tee shirt that barely covers her navel, the boys go bonkers.

"LOOK at that taut, tanny body!"

Giamatti remembers the grub, especially the scene at Miles's mother's house on the patio. "What we were eating here gave us food poisoning," he says and then they talk about how sick they were in livid detail.

The banter is constant and of the highest quality.

"Alexander (Payne) called me craggy goofy handsome," Church says.

"You're craggy and halfway handsome," Giamatti says. "But the goofiness comes from within."

If you want to know about wine, or the writer/director's motivations, you're in the wrong place. If you want to fall about listening to grown men lob adolescent insults over each other's barricades, you're not.

Behind The Scenes is surprisingly conventional. The actors talk about their roles and the director says that working on Sideways was "my pleasantest experience." It was for other members of the crew, as well, apparently.

Giamatti gives credit to Church for being "so quick" with the ad libs. Payne says that both clicked perfectly on and off set - you can recognise this by listening to the audio commentary.

Unlike every other Hollywood director, Payne doesn't use a monitor. He likes to stay close behind the camera, giving instructions to actors during a scene. Sandra Oh says that this can be off putting for some, but she found it stimulating.

Obviously everyone has genuine respect for Payne and the chemistry amongst the cast is exceptional and quite genuine.

Deleted Scenes are prefaced by the director's written intros, explaining why they were cut and placing them in context within the film. This gives the convention of including lost cinematic moments a purpose, when usually they are baffling, or inexplicable. It is another example of Payne's concern for his audience and the trouble he takes.

Without his explanations, these Deleteds would make little sense. With them, the process of editing, which took eight months, and the hard choices that had to be made - losing great scenes for the sake of rhythm and pace - become fascinating.

Reviewed on: 24 May 2005
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Sideways packshot
The adventures of two middle-age men on a wine-drinking stag weekend.
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Product Code: 2785401000

Region: 2

Ratio: 1.85 Anamorphic Wide Screen

Sound: Dolby Digital

Extras: Audio commentary with Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church; Behind The Scenes featurette; deleted scenes

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