There are certain films whose constituent elements alone assure them greatness, or at least a rank several notches above the norm. At first glance, “Sideways” seems to be one of these blessed cinematic events. Not only is it the fourth entry in the canon of largely brilliant (“Citizen Ruth,” “Election” and, to a much lesser extent, “About Schmidt”) director Alexander Payne, but it heralds the return of Thomas Haden Church, formerly known as the titular Ned of “Ned and Stacey,” television’s first Debra Messing-centric sitcom. Also landing in the positive column are the trampled everyman acting skills of Paul Giamatti and an excellent bit of cinematography that covers our very own picturesque Santa Barbara County and its surrounding areas.
However, the magnitude of the movie’s potential for respectability is met, or perhaps exceeded by the number of conceivable pitfalls in its path. Based on Rex Pickett’s recent eponymous novel, “Sideways” tracks the exploits of Miles and Jack, friends since their freshman year of college, as they head up to wine country for one last week of freedom before Jack ties the knot. In the hands of today’s novelists – and even screenwriters – such a scenario could easily lead to a clich