|SLIDING DOORS (1998)|
|"I come home and catch you up to your nuts in Lady Shagging Godiva!"|
|Time: 108 mins.|
The hook of this film is pretty simple and something that most people have thought about at one time or another: What would my life have been like if...? In this case, the film shows us two different versions of Helen's life (played by Ms. Paltrow) after she gets fired from her P.R. job. One where she catches the train and one where she doesn't. It's that simple, and yet with a heavier hand it could have been horrible. Howitt doesn't bias the film either way, though you do lean towards one version more than the other.
The amazing thing about the film is that Paltrow is able to keep the core of her character intact, even though she's living two very different lives. Helen is Helen and that just makes the idea of this film all the more involving. In version A, she makes the train, meets a very lovely, cute and funny bloke on the ride, and arrives home in time to see her boyfriend, Jerry (Lynch), naked underneath his ex-girlfriend, Lydia, (in a hilarious and evil turn by Tripplehorn). In version B, she misses the train, gets mugged waiting for a taxi, has to go to the hospital, and, you guessed it, misses the action. From here, her life diverges greatly. Because she lost her job, in version B she has to work two jobs just to keep her and her boyfriend from becoming homeless while he finishes writing his first novel.
In version A, she ends up becoming more than friends with James, the cute guy from the subway (played by the charming John Hannah), and opening her own P.R. agency. Hannah is so wonderful, you can't help but root for their relationship and wish this version was the "true" one, but life is never that neat and neither is this film. Losing her makes Jerry realize how much he wants Helen back, but she just can't trust him again. It turns out James has a dark secret as well, but it's not what Helen thinks and she agrees to let him be in her life.
In version B, you see a different side of Jerry. Almost getting caught, makes him realize how much he loves Helen though he's incapable of making a choice between her and Lydia. Fortunately for him, Lydia makes the decision for him in a truly unique breakup scene that makes you laugh and cry. Once rid of Lydia, Jerry swears he's a new man who's going to devote himself to life with Helen. Unfortunately for Jerry, that doesn't go exactly as he plans. We all pay for our mistakes one way or the other and his secret affair is exposed in a truly brutal way. In the end "Helen" survives, though bruised and heartsore, with a new lease on life and a new love.
SLIDING DOORS is a film about life and love that tells it's story in a unique, funny and sometimes heartbreaking way. The cutting back between the two Helens is done expertly and is never intrusive or confusing. There are many scenes that were shot twice from the perspective of both Helen's lives, which was very interesting. It's hard to imagine that these characters live in such an insular world their paths are constantly crossing especially since they live in London, but it's the hardest thing to swallow in this film and that's not so bad. Gwenyth gives a tour-de-force turn as this simple gal just looking for an honest man to love. SLIDING DOORS is a quiet romance that entertains as well as makes you think. A lovely fable about fate, love and life.