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Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004)
Alexander Payne’s Sideways is a small, impeccably done character study that may just get crushed under the expectations that are surrounding it. It arrives in Australia swathed in Oscar and Golden Globes buzz, and with strong reviews from some notable critics (such as David Stratton’s 5 star rave on At the Movies). Inflated hopes are the enemy of a movie such as this: while a blockbuster action picture’s sheer mass gives it some resistance to hype, a picture as slight as Sideways can be left seeming diminished if the experience is anything less than transcendent. I was left slightly underwhelmed by Sideways, which is a shame, because the film itself did nothing wrong: it’s pretty much note-perfect, and deserves to be assessed without the burden of Awards hopes. While I’m sure Alexander Payne won’t want to send his Golden Globe for Best Picture back – the award was given while I was writing this review – but it may be that the film itself would have been more comfortable quietly finding its audience.