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SLIDING DOORS(director/writer: Peter Howitt; cinematographer: Remi Adefarasin; editor: John Smith; music: David Hirschfelder; cast: Gwyneth Paltrow (Helen), John Lynch (Gerry), John Hannah (James), Jeanne Tripplehorn (Lydia), Douglas McFerran (Russell), Zara Turner (Anna); Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Phillipa Braithwaite/Sydney Pollack/William Hocberg; Miramax; 1998-USA/UK)
“Unfortunately, the novelty of the fresh concept quickly wears off.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

British actor turned writer-director Peter Howitt for his Sliding Doors helms this romantic comedy around the intriguing but gimmicky premise of investigating all the things that might have happened if the attractive Londonite young woman named Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow) who’s just lost her job at a PR firm hadn’t missed her train on the London Underground just as the doors slide shut. Helen’s story is filmed in the two disparate ways her life would have turned out; that is, if she could have both missed and made the train. In one version she catches her boyfriend making love to the other woman and in the other she doesn’t. Unfortunately, the novelty of the fresh concept quickly wears off and the storyline stagnates under its mechanically contrived weight.

This high powered exec who just got the sack and is returning to meet her live-in lover Gerry (John Lynch), in the first version, finds the scummy boyfriend in bed with his former girlfriend, the superbitch, Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). But she is happy because she just met Mr. Right, James (John Hannah). Helen dumps the cad boyfriend and gets a makeover becoming a fun-loving blond, and sets up her own high powered PR firm.

In the second version, Helen misses the train and is immediately mugged. She is now so down-in-the-dumps that she settles for a waitress and a sandwich delivery gig in a deli, and wears her brown hair in girlish unattractive pigtails. Still living with Gerry, she becomes pregnant and seems to be digging herself into a bigger hole.

One can praise the American Paltrow for her impeccably good British accent but little else in this cornball sitcom tale held my interest, including the terrible performances by the wannabe humorous wisecracking Hannah who is more dispiriting than funny and Tripplehorn’s rendition of the ugly Other Woman where she utters some of the most banal lines ever in the romantic comedy genre. Howitt’s inexperienced hand in directing screws up the pivotal dramatic scenes and leaves you feeling certain that he is no Kieslowski, who handled the same premise in his Blind Chance with far superior results.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”