Alexander Payne’s “Sideways,” and JD Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”

October 30 2004 – 05:22pm

Friday night I saw Alexander Payne‘s newest masterpiece, Sideways in which the lonely, divorced Miles (Paul Giamatti) takes his soon to be wed friend, Jack (Thomas Haden Church), on a week-long bachelor party of sorts through California’s wine country.

In preparation for dressing up as Holden Caulfield for Halloween (I actually went as Pedro from Napoleon Dyanmite), I have been re-reading JD Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, and I noticed an analogous relationship between at least a portion of Catcher and Alexander Payne’s movies (most notably, Election, About Schmidt, and Sideways). In Sideways, there is a scene where Maya (Virginia Madsen) explains to Miles that she likes wine because it is living, and is different every day. The day that you open it, it tastes different than it would be on any other day. Also, in Catcher, there is a part where Holden, while walking to the Museum of Natural History ponders:

“The best thing, though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right where it was. Nobody’d move. You could go there a hundred thousand times, and that Eskimo would still be just finished catching those two fish, the birds would still be on their way south, the deers would still be drinking out of that water hole, with their pretty antlers and their pretty, skinny legs, and that squaw with the naked bosom would still be weaving that same blanket. Nobody’d be different. The only thing that would be different would be you. Not that you’d be so much older or anything. It wouldn’t be that, exactly. You’d just be different, that’s all. You’d have an overcoat on this time. Or the kid that was your partner in line the last time had got scarlet fever and you’d have a new partner. Or you’d have a substitute taking the class, instead of Miss Aigletinger. Or you’d heard your mother and father having a terrific fight in the bathroom. Or you’d just passed by one of those puddles in the street with gasoline rainbows in them. I mean you’d be different in some way–I can’t explain what I mean.”

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This alone seems like a rather weak link, but then I remembered, didn’t Mr. McAllister (Matthew Broderick) get a job at the Musuem of Natural History after he moved from Omaha? There is also a scene in About Schmidt where Warren (Jack Nicholson) visits The Great River Platte Road Archway Monument, and views exhibits similar to those described in Catcher. Perhaps even Warren’s deceased wive’s Hummel figures serve as this static artifact that contrasts with the constant change in the lives of the characters surrounding it.

I’m sure this concept of people being in a constant state of flux, contrasted by something unchanging is a literary theme that originates from before Salinger, but It made me wonder.

What do you think?

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This post is filed under Books, Movies.