At last night’s Live Read, directed by Jason Reitman, Film Independent at LACMA presented Alexander Payne’s Academy Award winning Sideways at the Bing Theater. The 2004 film won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for its co-writers, Payne and Jim Taylor.
The players included Keegan-Michael Key as Jack, originally portrayed by Thomas Haden Church; Josh Gad as Miles, Paul Giamatti’s role; Catherine Reitman as Victoria, the role originated by Jessica Hecht; Michaela Watkins as Maya, originally played by Virginia Madsen; and Lake Bell as Stephanie, the role originated by Sandra Oh.
Combining Key and Gad’s sumptuous comedic chops with Payne and Taylor’s Bukowski-esque prose had the impact of a match torching a gas-filled room.
The highlight of the evening was the script itself. The biggest laughs came from the action sequences heard rather than seen, read by Jason Reitman who—like an award winning writer and director would—spoke the words simply, adding nothing and denying nothing.
Bell’s off-the-cuff sound effects busted stitches, when she provided the audio for the fat couple having make-up sex while Miles bravely enters the home to retrieve the wallet lost by his friend Jack, who was just caught committing adultery.
The story focuses on one man trying to get over a failed marriage and his one-and-only love, and the other on the brink of nuptials, with cold feet—Payne’s characters are always so relatable. They are not mythical figures or ones holding a solid moral compass. They are incredibly flawed, enigmatic people with untapped potential, men and women things don’t turn out so well for, coming to terms with their seeming mediocrity.
The audience was drawn in the most when the characters of Miles and Mia discussed what it is that got them interested in wine, which seems to link directly to their souls and who they are as people.
As it happens so often in Live Reads, the performance proved that great screenplays not only resonate and translate in the context of cinema, but demonstrate the power of words on a page.
JB Bogulski / Film Independent Blogger