Monday, 6 May 2013

Sliding Doors (1998) - ★★★½

Director: Peter Howitt
Writer: Peter Howitt
Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hannah, John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn

This is a really good  movie that could have been a masterpiece. The concept was absolutely brilliant, being as interesting as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004). Unfortunately, the difference is that it wasn't executed to its full potential. The two things that let it down most was its characters and screenplay. I like Gwyneth Paltrow, but I feel Sliding Doors could have benefited from having an 'every woman' as its lead, not a bombshell movie star.

Helen (Paltrow) is a nice, beautiful, hard-working woman whose husband, Gerry (John Lynch), is having an affair with another woman (Jeanne Tripplehorn). One day she misses the train home and has to wait for a later one. It gives us two scenarios and shows us what would have happened had she caught that train. Thus the title, Sliding Doors. I've often wondered what could have been in situations like that. This movie tells us what could have been with Helen, which happens to be quite an interesting story.

If she had caught the train, she would have met James (John Hannah), a really lovely man with a wicked sense of humour. She then arrives home early to catch her boyfriend cheating on her, changing her life forever. Since she missed her train, she never meets James and doesn't make it home in time to walk in on the affair. It is quite amazing to see how it pans out.

The problem I had with the movie was mainly to do with the characters, particularly the two male leads. Neither of them seemed like real people, but more like actors reading from a screenplay. I adore John Hannah, but his character was overly comedic and just seemed unrealistic. On the other hand, John Lynch's character I couldn't understand at all. He hardly seemed human, just a stuttering man that couldn't make up his mind. Therefore I couldn't like either of them, making both scenarios less interesting to watch.

Gwyneth Paltrow is a good actress and does a great English accent. She gave a really good performance in this film, but I felt like she wasn't right for the role. I can't help but feel that Kate Winslet or Toni Collette would have been more suited to playing Helen, but that's just my opinion. She didn't make the movie bad, but she prevented it from soaring to great heights.

The dialogue just seemed so phoney to me in many scenes. Whenever the husband tried to justify his affair or apologize to Helen I couldn't help thinking "Are you stupid or do you have a mental condition?" Sometimes I understand why the characters are given these sorts of personalities, but I just didn't get this character. James mentioned Monty Python's 'The Spanish Inquisition' spoof so many times that I wanted to cover my ears every time he spoke. Some people might like these characters, but they just annoyed the hell out of me.

With that being said, the movie was still entertaining. I was intrigued with the story from start to finish. I truly feel that this could have been a masterpiece of modern cinema, but that's only because of the concept. Without that concept, this movie would be an average rom-com. Even though I liked Sliding Doors, I'm disappointed that it wasted such potential.

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