Today's Wall Street Journal reports a flood of tourists arriving in California’s Santa Ynez wine country, re-enacting some of the less savory moments from the surprise hit movie "Sideways," such as the scene where a self-pitying, drunken Miles (Paul Giamatti) asks a bartender for a porn magazine.
So the makers of "Sideways"* have pulled off a winning combination: a serious idea wrapped in consumer-friendly frippery. The phenomenon recalls "Babette's Feast," Gabriel Axel’s 1987 film about an ascetic religious colony on the windswept coast of Denmark being restored to life and true spirituality by a marvelous French chef.
"Babette’s Feast" set off a round of lavish restaurant-going in New York City, with chefs competing to reproduce the meal depicted in the film down to the last tender morsel of baby quail flesh. Of course, the people who gobbled this up had not spent the previous half-century subsisting on boiled fish and breadcrusts.
By the same token, the Miles wanna-bes slurping down the vintage in Santa Barbara County probably do not have very good palates, in wine or anything else. If they did, they would not be living vicariously through a movie the whole point of which they seem to have missed.
* See my review, posted January 7