Sliding Doors - rated - TEPID

This film is just a piece of fluff. I don't really even rate it as a fun piece of romantic comedy, and I find that strange, because everyone in it was likeable. John Hannah was particularly likeable as Gwyneth Paltrow's new romantic interest. John Lynch as Gwyneth's old boyfriend/rat was, I thought, very good too, in a difficult role. He cheats on the beauteous Gwyneth - how could he? And yet he's kind of sweet, and portrays the sort of guy who has somehow gotten into a relationship with a gorgeous girl, and everyone thinks "How come she's with him? " I think it is a very clever portrayal indeed. The obligatory supporting actor and actress (Douglas McFerran and Zara Turner) who play the "best friends" are good too - and McFerran in particular has some very funny scenes - he does wonders with some of his lines. Jeanne Tripplehorn as the "other woman" is adequate. Just. There's even Virginia McKenna, for heaven's sake, in a small role as John Hannah's mother.

No, I hate to say it, but part of the problem lies with the gorgeous Gwyneth. She looks stunning - mesmerisingly so, dressed exclusively by Calvin Klein. She does an impeccable London accent, complete with effete intonation. In fact, the accent is so good, it has a life of its own. It's distracting, and (I know this is a contradiction in terms) it doesn't sound like it's her speaking. The voice seems disembodied in some way. Also, her voice, and her whole persona, is so cool that it makes it hard to connect with her. You can't feel for her, so it's hard to care what happens to her, or really anyone else in the film.

So much for the performances - now we're left with the idea, the cinematography and direction, and the script. Let's start with the good bits: the film looked good, was well and brightly edited and hung together well enough considering the complications involved in following the same character through two different forks in her life. The music was mostly good - modern pop songs - but sometimes intrusive, or distractingly edited.

Which brings us to the idea. Been done before, I'm afraid. According to David Stratton, the idea was used by Kieslowski in Blind Chance, where the hero's life is also changed because he misses a train. Kieslowski also made another film where one girl has 2 lives - the very beautiful The Double Life of Veronique. But it's a good idea, and deserves a bit more exploring. More than was done here, I think. In particular, I found the crisis which produces the ending quite peculiar. I just didn't care enough about it. And I think my problem was that the very premise of the story - the double life - means that you are constantly reminded - this isn't really happening, so don't bother to get too involved. So you pull back from the engagement you (or at least I) normally have in a romantic film.

The script is clever, with some good lines, but it feels forced. It gives you the feeling that the witer/director Peter Howitt was desperate for a Three Weddings and Funeral feel. He goes close sometimes, particularly in the scenes with Douglas McFerran.

But all in all, for me, it's a miss: a good-looking miss. Much like our Gwyneth, really.