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About The Story of Miles & Jack
The comically bittersweet plight of the everyday man lost in the muddle of modern life has become fertile territory for writer/director Alexander Payne in his three acclaimed feature films to date. From Jack Nicholson's suddenly widowed insurance executive in ABOUT SCHMIDT to Matthew Broderick's flummoxed school teacher meeting his match in a young student played by Reese Witherspoon in ELECTION to a pregnant Laura Dern who finds herself unexpectedly at the center of a fierce battle over abortion rights in CITIZEN RUTH, Payne's provocative films have probed with razor-sharp wit the manners and mores of contemporary Middle America. With SIDEWAYS, Payne takes up the story of two more hapless -- yet ultimately hopeful -- failures: Miles and Jack, whose trip to the Central Coast to drink wine, swing golf clubs and relax in the sun results in mad lust, frank betrayals, bodily harm . . . and an unexpected reconciliation with the ups, downs and sideways journeys that seem to make up the measure of a life.

Through the story of Miles and Jack – a modern-day odd couple on a last hurrah bender – Payne focuses in on a different and not often explored landscape: the middle-aged man, who faces the future fueled only by his few remaining dreams, his lingering loves, and that rare perfect bottle of wine shared among friends.

Payne first encountered the alternately tender and tart story of Miles and Jack when he read Rex Pickett's novel Sideways in 1999, before he became a two-time Oscar® nominee for ELECTION and ABOUT SCHMIDT. He was immediately drawn to their tale. First, there was its irresistible setting against Santa Barbara County's intimate wine tasting rooms – a magnet for an amateur wine lover such as Payne. But more than that, Payne was intrigued by the simple, and at times absurd humanity of the story, which touches on the contemporary desire for success, love, bliss and connection, all in the middle of a vacation that is sliding downhill fast.

"I am most moved by stories like SIDEWAYS that are about human beings and human nature, that are about flawed people and ambiguous moments that don't necessarily come to any neat closure,” Payne says. "Perhaps too many films in this current era have eschewed humanity for slickness. I'm interested in revitalizing the American cinema of the 70s, with its emphasis on real people and real struggles – and I think we desperately need human movies right now.” Payne continues: "The characters of Miles and Jack are kind of throwbacks themselves.

They're living in the past – Jack with his washed-up career and Miles with his failed marriage and dreams of being a writer. It's as if the rest of the world has moved on without them, but suddenly they're faced with the prospect of having to get on with their lives, and to me, that is both funny and serious.”

The characters of Miles and Jack were born in the mind of novelist Rex Pickett during a similar –thankfully somewhat less eventful -- wine-tasting spree he himself took with a friend a number of years ago. "I found myself introducing my friend to wine and telling him all these crazy stories,” Pickett recalls. "As we got a little more looped, I was cracking up my friend and he said ‘you should write about this.' I jokingly told him I would write something called ‘Two Guys on Wine!' But when I came back, I knew I had to start writing about these two characters: Jack, who was based on my friend, and Miles, who is based loosely on me.”

For Pickett it was the amusing and sometimes heartbreaking way in which Miles and Jack make mistakes in their lives that made them so real and intriguing to him. "I believe people really feel for these guys because they're failures,” he says. "We all have aspirations to live bigger and more glamorous lives yet so very few of us are able to reach those goals. I think deep down we all want J

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