Combustible Celluloid
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With: Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hannah, John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Zara Turner, Douglas McFerran, Paul Brightwell, Nina Young, Virginia McKenna, Kevin McNally
Written by: Peter Howitt
Directed by: Peter Howitt
MPAA Rating: R for some sexuality and language
Running Time: 99
Date: 01/26/1998

Sliding Doors (1998)

3 Stars (out of 4)

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By Jeffrey M. Anderson

This movie has what seems to be increasingly rare these days, an idea. Beautiful (what was Brad Pitt thinking?) and talented Gwyneth Paltrow plays Helen, actually two Helens. After losing her job, one Helen catches a London subway home, the other misses it. From that point on we follow both Helens through the next several months, and discover how different their lives become as a result of that one event. The Helen who makes the train arrives home in time to catch her live-in lover cheating on her, so she leaves him. The other Helen arrives home later, and ends up staying with the guy. Writer and director Peter Howitt keeps things clear by having one Helen cut and dye her hair (which makes sense -- a fresh perspective after she dumped her loser boyfriend). My only complaint is that some of the supporting characters tend to stray into one-dimensional clich├ęs, but Howitt's direction is so confident that he pulls it off. Sliding Doors is an old-fashioned romance that takes itself seriously (how often does Hollywood give us a straight romance without couching it in "comedy"?).

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