Sunday, September 10, 2006

Subtext - Sideways

What a great film. Official website is still fun. You can read the script here, which was, of course, written by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor and based on Rex Pickett’s novel.

How can we forget that wonderful moment when Miles and Maya talked on Stephanie’s back patio the night of their first date? They may have been talking about wine, but this moment is, in fact, a revelation of character. For Maya, wine’s about enjoying and appreciating life. For Miles, well, he IS that thin-skinned, temperamental little grape that requires “constant care and attention.”

Plus, I think Jack is the Cabernet. Hehehe

Can I ask you a personal question?

(bracing himself)

Why are you so into Pinot? It's like
a thing with you.

Miles laughs at first, then smiles wistfully at the question. He searches for the answer in his glass and begins slowly.

I don't know. It's a hard grape to
grow. As you know. It's thin-skinned,
temperamental, ripens early. It's
not a survivor like Cabernet that
can grow anywhere and thrive even
when neglected. Pinot needs constant
care and attention and in fact can
only grow in specific little tucked-
away corners of the world. And only
the most patient and nurturing growers
can do it really, can tap into Pinot's
most fragile, delicate qualities.
Only when someone has taken the time
to truly understand its potential
can Pinot be coaxed into its fullest
expression. And when that happens,
its flavors are the most haunting
and brilliant and subtle and thrilling
and ancient on the planet.

Maya has found this answer revealing and moving.

I mean, Cabernets can be powerful
and exalting, but they seem prosaic
to me for some reason. By comparison.
How about you?

What about me?

I don't know. Why are you into wine?

I suppose I got really into wine
originally through my ex-husband. He
had a big, kind of show-off cellar.
But then I found out that I have a
really sharp palate, and the more I
drank, the more I liked what it made
me think about.

Yeah? Like what?

Like what a fraud he was.

Miles laughs.

No, but I do like to think about the
life of wine, how it's a living thing.
I like to think about what was going
on the year the grapes were growing,
how the sun was shining that summer
or if it rained... what the weather
was like. I think about all those
people who tended and picked the
grapes, and if it's an old wine, how
many of them must be dead by now. I
love how wine continues to evolve,
how every time I open a bottle it's
going to taste different than if I
had opened it on any other day.
Because a bottle of wine is actually
alive -- it's constantly evolving
and gaining complexity. That is,
until it peaks -- like your '61 --
and begins its steady, inevitable
decline. And it tastes so fucking good.

Now it is Miles's turn to be swept away. Maya's face tells us the moment is right, but Miles remains frozen. He needs another sign, and Maya is bold enough to offer it: reaches out and places one hand atop his.

Bathroom over there?


Anonymous said...

My favorite scene in the whole movie (one of my favorites from that year). The connection between them and all the possibilities of their relationship all happen in their eyes and in the subtext. I'm actually annoyed that I didn't think of this example :)

Mystery Man said...

When I read the script after seeing the movie, I was blown away by how many lines of dialogue there were. Once Jack and Miles hit the road, page after page of chatter. And yet, it never really felt all that talkative to me when I first watched it.

I wonder, if I had reviewed this script, I don't know, I fear I may have faulted the amount of dialogue. I probably would have, because it was 142 pages, I believe. (I just revised the link to the script so you can get the .pdf document instead of the .txt document).

Anonymous said...

There was a lot of dialogue in that movie, but most of it did a good job of moving the story along and illuminating the characters, which is what dialogue should do.

That was my favorite scene also. I think the film-makers wanted to break a few rules with this one and they did with style. So the scene with the two very long speeches is without a doubt the most poignant and well-expressed in the film, and the best friend is the antagonist.

I recently got a chance to see this movie. I've been watching bits and pieces on HBO, but either came in too late, or had to leave early. This scene where the discuss "wine" really got to me too. It's not just in the words, which are wonderful, but how the actors expressed those words.

I also found it interesting that very early on Miles steals money from his mother. This should not be something that would endear the audience to the character, but it does work, in a way. It shows how pathetic he is, so after that, as the story progresses, you're willing to forgive him for being such a loser because, after all, how much of a winner could a guy who steals from his own mother be?

Mystery Man said...

Great comments, Miriam.

And ya know, I don't think that tiny subplot about him stealing money ever got resolved either, did it?

Anonymous said...

Did that subplot need to be resolved? I always pictured his mother finding it later and shrugging it off. Or even storing it there so he could take it. He's probably been doing it since he was a kid.

I loved the scene where Jack cries and begs Miles to help him get his wallet. It was like those scary movies where you yell at the screen, "Don't go in there!" except I was yelling at Miles, "Don't believe him. He's an actor. Can't you see he's acting?"

Mystery Man said...

I don't think that subplot had to be resolved directly with her, but did he change in such a way as to not be the kind of man who would do such a thing anymore?

I guess he did...

Christina said...

After I saw the movie a few times and read the screenplay, I bought the novel. I read the novel... twice. (A month apart between readings.) Believe it or not, the novel is better than the movie.

Mystery Man said...

I'd believe it. I'll bet it's hilarious. I've picked up the book quite a few times, but I haven't bought it yet.

Christina said...

As fate would have it, Sideways is on tonight and I'm watching it again.

Definitely buy the novel next time you pick it up. It's great bedtime reading.

And about the mother - I think the subplot was paid off immediately by the mother offering the money. We see that she's kind of indulged him, so his behavior is not as repulsive as it might be. Still, not a guy I'd want to date. (Again.)