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Sideways - A Local Review

Posted: Monday, January 17, 2005

By: David Retz (Expired article)

Solvang, CA -

How do you define “Dark Comedy”? Sideways, which just received a Golden Globe award for best picture and was filmed in the Santa Ynez Valley, just might do the trick.

The story is about two men approaching middle age (each 39 going on 13), so obsessed with self fullfillment and superficiality that they have no self-concept, other than their façade.

The almost slapstick comedy is simultaneously a tragedy, as the film portrays their inability to be honest with anyone, much less themselves. The tragedy succeeds in making the pretentiousness of the characters very real and present, and in several close-up photographic sequences the film splendidly pierces the façade to portray their reality of inner grief.

Set in the Santa Ynez Valley wine country, the film has nuances of “insider information” sprinkled throughout. One of the characters, for example, is a waitress at the Hitchin’ Post but is studying to get a Masters Degree in horticulture from a nearby university in San Luis Obispo. Valley filming locations include: The Windmill Inn, The River Course, The Solvang Restaurant, The Los Olivos Café, Sanford Winery, AJ Spurs, Santa Ynez Valley Cottage Hospital, Kalyra Winery, and Fess Parker Winery (renamed in the movie). They even filmed the Gaviota tunnel (this time correctly in the northbound lanes of 101 – as opposed to the 1960s film, “The Graduate”, which inaccurately portrayed it in the southbound direction). Cameo appearances in the film: Chris Burroughs pouring wine at Sanford, and Greg Heath, the tasting room manager at Kalyra Winery, acting as a customer.

One disappointing aspect was the use of gratuitous sexual scenes and language that garner the film an ‘R’ rating. While actually unnecessary to the story line, these disable the film from being suitable and meaningful to an even wider audience that might include, for example, young males of 13 going on 39.

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