FRIDAY 15 JUNE Barn Doors: 7.30pm Film: 8pm Sideways (15) This dissection of American social mores is the finest and most perfectly formed movie yet from director Alexander Payne.
Middle-aged mates Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church) take a trip to California's wine country to celebrate the latter's upcoming wedding. But Miles's wine-tasting plans get sidelined by Jack's desperation for a last fling and his attempts to set Miles up with an equally grape-savvy waitress (Virginia Madsen).
Thanks to astonishing performances from Giamatti (a rumpled bundle of nervous self-loathing), Church (a deliciously deadpan but fading Casanova) and the Oscar-nominated Madsen, Payne's richly rewarding comedy is of the best vintage.
Finding a middle ground between his last two films - the explicitly satirical Election and the overly bleak About Schmidt - Payne's gloriously picaresque analysis of midlife crises does exactly as the title suggests. It takes oblique glances at the buddy flick and road movie by skewering both with poignancy, truth and consistent wit to give a fresh vitality to each well-worn genre. It fully deserved every award it received, and a lot more.