Movie Review By Andrea Chase
"Sliding Doors" is droll, very well written, and, with one exception where I wasn't supposed to anyway, I smiled from beginning to end. It earns this exceptional accolade - I had a good time watching it.
It has a clever premise, or should I say premises? Helen, played by Gwyenth Paltrow, is fired from her posh London PR job for borrowing four bottles of vodka. On the way home, the story diverges. She does and doesn't miss the subway. In one time line, she catches the train and arrives home in plenty of time to catch her boyfriend in bed with his old girlfriend. In the other, she misses the train, gets mugged on the way home, and remains in a state of ignorance that may or may not be bliss.
The switching back and forth between the two time lines is handled deftly. And there's never a problem keeping the two straight, either. On the contrary, it's easy to get caught up in the interesting ways that Helen's parallel lives reflect each other. Like the way major players in one time line become extras in the other. And the magic of coincidence (or is it the force of destiny?) that drives them both.
Gwyneth Paltrow plays Helen with, to these Yankee ears, a believable English accent. She's also believable and subtle showing the different ways Helen evolves in the both time lines from snotty yuppie floating through life into a woman with backbone and substance while never sacrificing her sense of humor. As for the men in her life, they're both cuties. John Lynch, as her rumpled, unfaithful boyfriend comes darn close to making that failing forgivable. Fortunately, John Hannah, as a chance encounter that leads to romance, is no less adorable, with his straight face and quick wit, though he may be harboring a dark secret or two of his own. Jeanne Tripplehorn pops in as the woman you love to hate.
"Sliding Doors" is, in the words of its writer/director, Peter Howitt, a light entertainment. I agree but hasten to point out that light should not be confused with mindless. It's good to find a fun flick that didn't sacrifice its smarts.
© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 4/21/98
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