Written March 01, 2008
I'm biased when it comes to Alexander Payne. His segment of 2006's "Paris Je T'Ame," 2002's "About Schmidt" and this one from 2004 were all my favorite movies of their respective years. They all share his distinctive stamp, which in my opinion is unlike anybody else working in film. They're about ordinary people. The middle-aged American lady tourist in "Paris;" the retired midwesterner in "Schmidt;" and the two boy-men on a wine-tasting bachelor party in "Sideways." Each of his films toys around with regular situations, tweaking them for maximum humor, and finding the deeper meaning that we can relate to. His characters are sometimes pathetic, but also real and worthy of compassion. You recognize their flaws (nothing's sugar-coated in an Alexander Payne movie), you laugh at and with them, and you're moved to root for them. Being a Colorado kid, there's just something in this Nebraskan fimmaker's work that's just so right-on each time out: something sad, funny, joyful and true.
Written March 16, 2008
I had heard very good things about this movie, but it didn't live up to the hype. For one thing, for a movie that's supposed to be a dramedy, there wasn't much comedy. Sure, there were some funny parts, but not much. Perhaps I would have thought more of it if I had only expected a drama--and been pleasantly surprised by a few funny moments here and there--but, whatever the reason, this was a letdown. Paul Giamatti and Sandra Oh were very good, as always. Virginia Madsen was pretty good, too--though I wouldn't say she deserved the Oscar nomination she received for it. As for Thomas Haden Church? Whenever I hear him speak, I think of "Lowell" on the television show, "Wings." Certainly, he wasn't the same goofball in this movie that he was on that show, but I wasn't impressed by his performance.
Far from the worst movie in the world, but nothing more than an "eh."