What I liked about Sideways

The buddy movie about two forty-ish men — a failing novelist and a failing actor — going on a wine-country tour the week before the actor’s wedding.
I liked the way Sideways made fun of an intellectual — the writer’s wine snobbery is simultaneously a sign of absurd pretention, unacknowledged alcoholism, and genuine passionate avocation.
I liked some of the structural craftsmanship — the movie has repeated scenes of iffy driving, but the car crash that eventually happens is different than you’d expect.
I liked the sets — attentive depictions of America’s seedy kitch, without Quentin Tarantino’s glamor or Coen caricature. The characters walk from the two-story motor-courtyard motel along the highway by a car lot, to a western-kitch restaurant called “the hitching post”. It may be cheesy, but it’s our landscape.
I liked the way the writer’s chronic hesitancy contrasted with the actor’s chronic impulsiveness. Between them, there was a fraction of one mature person. The actor’s impulsive suggestion that the characters should run off to start a wine business was the most sensible idea in the movie — the actor’s hucksterism, the writer’s estheticism, and the practicality of the female characters might have resulted in a working business.
I think the male actors — Paul Giamatti and Jack Church — are funny. The female characters are dull in a love-interest sort of way.
I liked the way the move was about lying to oneself (the writer’s alcoholism, the actor’s slim chance at marital fidelity) and to others (the writer’s taking vacation money from his mother’s underwear drawer, the actor’s deception of women.
I like the way that in the novelistic tradition, the story is about an economic constraint in society — creative fields like writing, music, and acting focus on hit-based celebrity of the young.
A number of reviewers complain that the characters aren’t likable, or worse, that the filmmakers don’t have compassion for the characters. I have a creepy suspicion that the truth may be worse — that the difference between the characters and the movie makers is that the movie makers make a bit more money and get caught less.

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