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91 of 101 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Peter Howitt's debut film about two divergent life paths
I actually passed on seeing "Sliding Doors" several years ago because of a review I read by Roger Ebert. I knew about the basic premise of the film, which is that a character played by Gwyneth Paltrow gets on a subway train and does not get on a subway train. The film goes back and forth between the two plotlines, basically playing out both sides of Robert...
Published on July 29, 2004 by Lawrance M. Bernabo

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21 of 28 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A discenting opinion
Though the reviewers here seem to have a basically high opinion of the film, I found myself bothered by a lot of things. Mainly the male POV prevalent throughout that two female characters, presumably both intelligent and attractive, would bother wasting themselves on someone who doesn't deserve their time of day: namely two-timing boyfriend Gerry, who is living with...
Published on May 27, 2008 by Terran


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91 of 101 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Peter Howitt's debut film about two divergent life paths, July 29, 2004
By 
This review is from: Sliding Doors (DVD)
I actually passed on seeing "Sliding Doors" several years ago because of a review I read by Roger Ebert. I knew about the basic premise of the film, which is that a character played by Gwyneth Paltrow gets on a subway train and does not get on a subway train. The film goes back and forth between the two plotlines, basically playing out both sides of Robert Frost's two paths diverging in the woods. Ebert's complaint was that taken independently neither of the plotlines was worth watching, which was enough to convince me to see something else.

Well, now I have seen "Sliding Doors" and while I agree with Ebert's critique, I want to argue that what is interesting about this film is not the two plotlines but the way they interact. Think of it as two wrongs making a right or the total effect being greater than the sum of the two parts or whatever makes sense to you. Writer-director Peter Howitt makes "Sliding Doors" into more than just a gimmick film. It is not in the class of "Groundhog Day" or "Memento," but it is certainly on a level with "50 First Dates."

Paltrow plays Helen Quilley. One morning she goes off to work, leaving behind her lover, Gerry (John Lynch). As soon as she gets to work she is sacked. On the way home she both catches and misses the subway in a sequences that is rather clumsily staged, but you get the idea. The Helen on the subway gets home in time to catch Gerry in bed with his supposedly ex-lover, Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). The Helen who misses the subway gets hurt when her purse is stolen and gets home after Lydia has left and therefore knows nothing about the affair.

Because of the near mugging Howitt is able to have one Helen look different from the other because of a bandage on her head after the hospital visit. By the time that heals the other Helen, trying to put Gerry behind her, has shortened her hair and bleached in blonde. The other key distinction is that while one Helen is still with Gerry, working two jobs in order to support him while he (does not) write a novel (and does continue to see Lydia), the other is seeing James (John Hannah), a nice man she met on the subway home and who believes the Monty Python line "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition" helps to put life in perspective (which is certainly true).

It seems fairly obvious that both Helens should be with James and leave Gerry far behind, but it seems clear that Howitt is going to work the irony angles as much as possible in this film. It is not so much that these are parallel stories as their are recurring elements of symmetry and at some point I decided that what was going to happen here was that Howitt was going to be able to have his cake and eat it two. This indeed turns out to be the case, but telling you that does not give away the end game.

Paltrow is fine in the main role, although why the two main female characters had to be played by American actresses is beyond me. Tripplehorn's character is in the "Fatal Attraction" mold, which makes Gerry's inability to choose between Helen and Lydia rather laughable, a fact repeatedly pointed out to him by his friend, Russell (Douglas McFerran) at the bar. Russell has the best lines in the film, calling Gerry "a morality-free zone" and pointing out that his advice will be unappreciated since it is based in reality. Lynch manages to play Gerry so that there is some hope of redemption and we remain open to the idea that things could work out between him and Helen, while we wait for Helen to catch up with our feelings for Hannah's character, who is likeable in a rather surprisingly unpretentious way for such a gabby guy.

This is not a brilliant and creative film, but Howitt constructs what I think is a smart story line bouncing back and forth between the lives of the two Helens. There is no profound point to be made in the end beyond the ancient idea that when it comes to the lives of human beings and their attempts to find love in the world the gods tend to look down and laugh. But in a world where so many films are exercises in stupidity and I find myself thinking that what ended up on screen was a first draft that needed some serious work, "Sliding Doors" has all the pieces fit. The other film I have seen by Howitt, "Antitrust," was also smartly crafted, although in that one somebody else wrote the script. Still, that is not a bad pair of films for viewers who like to have their brains engaged.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real gem full of surprises !, August 18, 2000
By 
Cécile KOBEL (Neuilly sur Seine, France) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sliding Doors (DVD)
What can say ? I've seen this extremely funny and intelligently romantic movie about a dozen times after seeing it in the theater (and that's for lack of time) and I'm still not bored with it. I've shown it to people of all ages and both sexes and they all loved it. The "What if she had caught the rain?" becoming reality principle is not plausible of course but the rest of the movie is extremelly realistic.
Gwyneth is absolutely perfect, John Hannah delivers more one-liners than you could think of and yet never sounds contrived, his total lovability and his accent turn him into this so obvious babe. Jeanne Tripplehorn is cast in this very unrewarding role, yet -in one very memorable monologue especially- she manages to give it more than one "evil" dimension. In fact, all supporting roles are extremelly well-crafted and allow the movie never to see its pace slow down.
I should add that the first time I saw it I was wondering how the story would fall back on its feet in the end and I was so pleased to see how they had dealt with it. Thumbs up ! and thank you for this little gem.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Meaning of Life, May 11, 1999
This review is from: Sliding Doors [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Okay, that's probably a bit over the top, but the movie deserves it. Top marks to Gwyneth for her accent - it's so unusual to hear a convincing English accent from an American (even Helen Beckinsdale - who's English - put on a 'what Americans think we sound like' accent when she played Ross's girlfriend in 'Friends'). The story is simple, yes, and Gwyneth's character is not a ober-babe. She makes stupid mistakes. She's not always intelligent and says the right thing...she's human. It was also very interesting to see how the other characters changed as her life changed, too. Her boyfriend, in one life an uncaring pig, in another desperate to rekindle what he had lost (fat chance). When I watched this, my friend (of the female persuasion) shrieked at the car crash/stairs incident. It's one of those. You'll love the characters, you'll hate what happens to them, but it all makes your own life seem somehow richer.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Jewel, August 27, 2001
By 
Amazon Customer (New England, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sliding Doors (DVD)
Gwyneth Paltrow's best film to date, performance-wise, even better (I think) then 'Shakespeare in Love'. She plays Helen, and... Helen. Should be confusing, but surprisingly, isn't. The movie really picks up when Helen, who's just been fired from her major PR job in downtown London, misses a train. And then, rewind, she catches the train. What insues is a delightful, unique, and surpisingly deep film about what her life is like traveling down the two different paths. On one hand, she has lazy, scummy boyfriend Jerry, who you somehow can't help liking at least a little bit (at least, you never hate him as much as you'd like to). He's a great comic presence, confused and trying to do the right thing, but keeps tripping over his own self-indulgent feet. On the other hand, you have John Hannah's character, and good-hearted and hilarious bloke who's original and quite cute. The way Helen reacts with others in a scene is wonderful. Definitely worth watching over and over.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Concept, fulfilling development, December 12, 1999
By 
Jo28 "jo28" (Washington State, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sliding Doors [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This movie must've started with someone wonderng "What if?" as we've all done. From there, it keeps viewers interested by turning into a double feature of sorts, What if Helen catches the train? What is she doesn't catch the train? I was first interested in this movie because of the interesting premise, but it more than delivered. A very satisfying movie, and very entertaining, I recommend it highly!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fate has a way of finding you..., January 15, 2004
By 
Dana (Roseland, NJ) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sliding Doors (DVD)
I never do these, but reading some of the other reviews, I think it's apparent that many people missed the "moral of the story". I agree that it's based on "what-if" scenarios, but I think more than that, it shows that things happen for a reason, and even though you may think you're life can't get any worse, you were destined to live that life and take that path for a reason. I don't want to give away the ending, but anyone whose seen it understands what I'm saying. This movie is amazing and deeper than people give it credit for because it is a lighthearted comedy. It can make you think, and overthink every decision and step you take every day, because you just never know where you're being led... but in the end you'll end up on your destined course and if someone's meant to be in your life... it's inevitable, one way or another it will happen.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your average chick-flick romance movie, January 22, 2005
This review is from: Sliding Doors (DVD)
It's a little confusing now and then, sometimes hard to keep track of the two parallel scenarios that form the unique and ambitious framework for this, um, I guess you'd have to call it a romance. Here's the deal: Gwyneth Paltrow experiences 2 possible outcomes as a result of her attempt to catch a train (the Tube; it's London) home. In one, she catches the train, arrives home hours early, and discovers her live-in boyfriend in bed with another woman. In the 2nd scenario, she misses the train, arrives home a bit later, and finds her boyfriend in the shower but a few things are awry that arouse her suspicion.

Really promising idea, and the film carries them both all the way to the conclusion and manages to meld them nicely at the end.

The only glitch - well, there were 2, actually - for me was that I had trouble visualizing Paltrow's character seriously falling for the total schmuck/cad/cheating boyfriend and being so undone when the romance faltered. And the other was about an accident scene that occurs very close to the end. It was all filmed so quickly with the 2 scenes occurring simultaneously that just 10 minutes after the film ended, I couldn't remember exactly what had happened in which version.

However, that's minor. It's definitely worth watching. I just hope Paltrow gains about 5-10 pounds pretty soon, tho, cuz her ridged and bony chest is just too anorexic-like to look at without cringing.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fate- like never seen before., February 13, 2001
By 
This review is from: Sliding Doors [VHS] (VHS Tape)
Have you ever had one of those days when you find yourself thinking "if only I caught that bloody train, none of this would have happened"? Well in this beautiful romantic comedy starring Gwenyth Paltrow and John Hanna, that simple question is the primary focus of the story. When Helen, played by Gwenyth Paltrow, misses the train going home her life takes an amazing change in course by showing her life as it would have happened if she caught the train. Athough it sounds confusing in text, the movie clearly presents Helen's destiny one two seperate diverged roads. The symbolism of Helen's two new characters signify how singular events can permanently alter your life forever. John Hanna plays James, the nicer of Helen's boyfriends. Although he is the typical flat male charachter in romantic movies, the viewer never seems to tire of his "cheesiness." He cheers Helen up by quoting Monty Python, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquistion." This also is significant towards the movie's story since it focuses on how nobody can truly expect how their life can change in a split second. Since I don't want to give away the ending I can only tell you that it, in my opinion it symbolizes fate better than I have ever seen before. This movie brilliantly shows us the meaning of life, fate, destiny, and love. I would reccomend it especially for those who seem to feel like life is not going their way or if only things went a little differently everything would be different. I would especially recommend it for anyone who appreciates British humor.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my All-Time Faves!, December 30, 1999
By 
Lizz (Selinsgrove, PA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sliding Doors [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This movie always puts a smile on my face. It may not be the most complex storyline, or have amazing special effects. But this movie is still special. This is my "Having a Bad Day" movie. I put it on, and it never fails to put a smile on my face. Even with the opening song, it's just a fun, kick-back and enjoy-the-show movie. Gwyneth Paltrow is my favorite contemporary actress, and she does a superb job in this film. Her English accent is wonderful and fun to listen to, and the comic timing of Gwyneth and John Hannah are amazing, as well as the rest of the cast.
This is the movie to watch if you're feeling down and need a fun pick-me-up. It takes your mind of of things, and for a good 2 hours, you just enjoy!
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Simple Slide of Fate, May 31, 2001
This review is from: Sliding Doors [VHS] (VHS Tape)
This offbeat gem of a movie will surprise even those of us who thought Gwyneth Paltrow is all legs and hair and precious little talent. I know it did me. I won't rehash the plot again, except to say that the "What if I had ONLY caught that train?" scenario is something we've all experienced and wondered about at one point or another. London career gal Helen gets to experience both possibilities, with hilarious and touching results. Ms. Paltrow turns in a winning, subtly nuanced performance in her dual role as Helen-Who-Makes-the-Train, and Helen-Who-Doesn't, making herself likeable enough in both scenarios that we root for her in both 'lives'. Despite some lapses into superficiality, the script keeps us guessing how things will turn out for Helen--in fact, what appears to be the 'ideal' scenario at first is shown to be not so ideal at all.
Two things make this movie worth viewing a second time--the glimpse it provides into the lives of contemporary London 'singletons', which is always intriging to this Anglophile, and John Hannah in the role of James, Helen's love interest in her 'alternative' universe. First encountered by Helen, and the audience as a persistently chatty fellow passenger on the Tube, he quickly wins Helen's heart, and the audience's with his warm and endearing teddy-bearish decency, his quirky and appealing looks, and The Accent, a Scottish brogue so thick as to be nearly impenetrable at first to Yank ears, but which soon becomes addictive. 'Sliding Doors' is just that much better when Hannah is on-screen, and he and Paltrow make an appealing, if unlikely couple--the Golden Hollywood It-Girl paired with a clownishly attractive regular Joe. The same formula was used in 'Notting Hill', but unlike the sterile screen pairing of Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant in that film, Paltrow and Hannah do achieve a real, quirky chemistry together that makes the romance believable.
Fans of "Four Weddings and a Funeral" will recognize Hannah--he gives a charmingly different performance here as a romantic leading man. Here's hoping he can follow in the footsteps of his countryman Sean Connery and snag some more juicy leading parts in America that will display The Accent to full advantage!
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Sliding Doors
Sliding Doors by Peter Howitt (DVD - 1998)
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