I got to see this last week due to The Times preview screenings. This is the only reason for buying The Times.
This is a delightful film. This description sounds a bit soft, but that’s the most appropriate word. It is a film about two middle-aged men who realise that life has past them by and it won’t get any better, but a delightful script and delightful acting make this a joy to watch from start to finish. It’s warm, witty, moving, dark, annoying, disturbing and uplifting, and what more could you ask from a film?
I could be nasty and say how critics love this because they are happy that a nerdy, bookish, lonely, slovenly chap can find love in the arms of Virginia Madsen, but I won’t.
Paul Giamatti is wonderful as the wine-loving, failed writer, and it’s a shame that he didn’t get an Oscar nomination. Thomas Hayden Church, Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen are also perfect in their respective roles, inhabiting their characters rather than ‘Acting’, and you get the sense of really getting to know who these people are, which is a wonderful feat in two hours.
The ‘Pinot’ scene, where Giamatti describes his love of the Pinot grape but is actually talking about himself is very touching, when it could have been uncomfortable in its obviousness if the actors weren’t just perfect. It’s one of many great scenes, which include verbal sparring and slapstick, that make this my favourite contender for adapted screenplay.
Alexander Payne is becoming an accomplished director, bringing his own feel to a film, and can obviously bring a lot out of his actors (especially if he can get Jack Nicholson to not ‘do’ Jack in a film, as he did for About Schmidt). The recurring visual of darkness behind doors can be seen as a metaphor for the charcters’ view on life, but it also allows for a pleasing ending, where a knock on a door and a fade to darkness are a much more rewarding and hopeful ending than a conventional union would have.