I went to my first movie preview tonight. My pal Andrew got me in on a screening of Alexander Payne’s new movie – we’d both loved the last two he made, so were looking forward to this. I’d read an ILE thread about it, which was kind of tepidly positive, but I thought this was a magnificent film, a masterpiece even.

It’s a quiet film, a tale of a middle-aged rather nebbishy guy, a wine expert and would-be novelist, taking an old pal, an ex-minor-soap star and more laddish guy, on a trip round Californian vineyards, tasting wine and eating good food, before he acts as best man in this guy’s wedding. They’re very different people, on mostly incompatible wavelengths, both fucking up in their own ways. There’s no big action or great revelations or large plot to explain, it’s just people doing stuff and getting a lot of it wrong.

What makes it so great is its precision: the cinematography, direction, script, performances, every moment is nailed. He captures every detail perfectly. Loads of people can do moments of deep human sadness; and loads can do comedy; but a director who can make them both work together, simultaneously, is a rare thing and something to be treasured (see also Larry McMurtry, the best novelist I’ve read at this). It’s not as broad and sledgehammer as The Office or Alan Partridge, which also managed those moments, it’s much more ordinary and human and delicate than that. This film moved me, and I laughed out loud loads of times.

I’m not sure how reliant Payne is on writer-collaborator Jim Taylor, but after seeing only three of his movies (I missed his first, Citizen Ruth), I’m convinced that Payne is a genuinely major talent, a director who will make a great many wonderful movies – someone with that good an eye and ear can surely not go very wrong? (Yeah, I realise I may regret that, but I don’t think so.)