Alexander Payne’s acerbically witty satire Election could have been a prequel to Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The film points out that American high schools, far from functioning as the nation’s first line of defense against ignorance, are petri dishes for the infectious disease of political power. Student government is this breeding ground, and all who oppose it are—as any crook or liar could tell you—lepers who should be quarantined for their nonconformity. Hypocrisy, thy name is politics.
Sideways, an excursion of two middle-aged friends into California wine country that has all the outward trappings of a nachos-and-cheese experience—bromance; loose women; and, above all, near-constant imbibing—manages to retain its own philosophy without crashing headlong into the aesthetic dead-end of excessive pleasure-seeking of either the bibulous or libidinous kind. On life’s roads, there’s rarely a direct route, might begin an interpretation of the film’s intriguingly cryptic title. And that’s a good thing. The smaller side streets that wind around the detours of human sorrow often arrive at sunnier shores.