“I don’t care about plot.” – Rex Pickett, author of Sideways
I know, I know… what a shocker that the author of Sideways doesn’t care about plot. Now, I haven’t read the novel so I shouldn’t make blanket statements about its lack of plot, but the movie, written not by Pickett, isn’t the most engaging story to grace the screen in the last decade, and the screenwriters actually added plot to Pickett’s novel.
In her 2008 book “And the Best Screenplay Goes to…”, Linda Seger interviews Rex Pickett as well as the screenwriters who adapted Sideways for the screen. Furthering his argument against plot, Pickett goes on to say, “…three-dimensional characters are the pillars of any good film story, dialogue is the glue, and the story is only the body of the vehicle, not the engine.”
While I fully agree that characters drive the story, there has to be a story present for the characters to drive. Stage plays can get away with a couple hours of talking, but motion pictures are completely dependent on action. Characters need to do things, not just say things.
Who am I to question the plot of Sideways? After all, it won the Academy Award for best adapted screenplay in 2005 and was nominated for Best Picture. Its IMDb cumulative user rating is 7.8/10. The movie contributed to higher wine sales and a spike in tourism to the Santa Ynez Valley. Gross box office receipts topped $70 million on a budget estimated to be $12 million.
There is no question that Sideways achieved the rare feet of critical, audience, and financial acclaim – a huge accomplishment for a movie based on a novel that was rejected by no less than 15 publishers.
But I’m going to conclude that Sideways is an exception, not a rule to try to emulate. For every Sideways there are hundreds of talking-head plotless drivel-flicks without Virginia Madsen, Thomas Haden Church and Paul Giamatti carrying the weight.
I don’t hate Sideways, but I don’t like it. And I’m certainly not going to try to write anything like it. Give me movies about people doing things, not just saying things. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.