To think that Gwenyth Paltrow really wasn't that well known only a few short years ago in 1998 is pretty surprising, but true. She'd starred in Emma, but that was about it. So people may or may not know about the sleeper hit Sliding Doors, a romantic comedy with an interesting approach, delivering to the audience two different versions of one character's life, based upon whether she got onto a subway one day or not.
Paltrow stars as Helen, a PR executive who loses her job and then rushes to get a subway. A little girl gets in her way and she misses it, and goes about her life, trying to find a new job and so forth. Then again, the little girl isn't in her way, and she makes the train, only to come home and find her boyfriend (John Lynch) sleeping with another woman (Jeanne Tripplehorn). She then meets another man (John Hannah) and goes about her life in a totally different way.
It's an interesting attempt at something original, and Sliding Doors pulls it off pretty well. I wasn't quite sure how writer/director Peter Howitt was going to do it, but I was pleased with the final result. He just blends the two stories together, with Paltrow sometimes walking into the same bar at nearly the same time, but in different realities. His back-and-forth storytelling is only confusing for a couple of minutes, and it is nearly seamless. It is nearly perfect.
As far as a movie goes, Sliding Doors has great acting, good characters, and a decent script, all of which combine to make a pretty effective film. John Hannah is truly funny as Paltrow's new love interest, and he really is the soul of the movie (at least from a guy's perspective). Sliding Doors is funny and entertaining, although not hysterical, but Hannah's performance brings it close at times.
Romantically speaking, the movie is also pretty good. Howitt does a good job of creating Paltrow's cheating boyfriend as more of a confused, normal guy than a sleazy, no-good loser. The character of Gerry, performed by John Lynch, is great, because he is foolishly working between two women and knows it is bad, but can't seem to help himself. He makes for some interesting situations and a story that doesn't necessarily leave itself with an obvious ending (Paltrow may, in fact, end up with him in the end). Then again, there is Hannah, who is your typical, nice, not overly-handsome but cute guy. The chemistry is good between all three of the main characters, but in different ways.
Sliding Doors is a fun and relaxing movie, perfect for dates. It's funny and entertaining, but also charming and romantic; neither sex will be disappointed.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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