TBT – Sliding Doors (1998)

films, gimmicky, meh, review, rom-com, shagging, TBT

I was sorely tempted to put off this TBT post and do it tomorrow. Today was the General Election and, as I was working from 9 until 630, I decided to go before I set off this morning. That’s fine in principal but, as always happens on such occasions, I got caught in a YouTube cycle last night and went to bed far too late. I’ve been walking around like a zombie for most of the day because of the lack of sleep. I managed quite well but there was a point this morning when I dropped pretty much everything that I picked up. Something that would be quite funny were I part of the circus or in some kind of farce but less useful in a kitchen setting. Still, I am determined to finish this tonight and get to bed, relatively, early. I’d love to stay up and wait for the results to roll in but, as vital as that seemed back in my early twenties, now I’m nearly 30 it seems utterly stupid. Especially when I’m starting work at 7 tomorrow morning. I don’t have time for that… Dimbledore or no Dimbledore.

When The Versions of Us first came out pretty much every article and review about it referenced Sliding Doors. I’m not saying it doesn’t make sense but it always felt like kind of an obvious comparison. It’s as inevitable as the moment when anything that is set in space is compared to Star Wars. Yes, both are about the concept of different timelines and the importance of one moment on your future but that doesn’t mean they are obvious partners. Still, if was good enough for those guys then I feel like it’s fair to talk about that 1998 romantic-comedy for today’s TBT post. It helps that I have a bit of soft spot for the film thanks to my undying love of John Hannah. He’s lovely and Scottish. And he’s made more than enough terrible films better just by being on screen. Okay I’m mainly talking about this one, The Mummy series and Four Weddings and a Funeral but I’m sure there’s more I haven’t seen.

When it comes to Sliding Doors I have 2 strong memories of the film. Number 1: a very good friend of mine absolutely loves this film so I’ve always felt the need to bite my tongue about it. Number 2: Gwyneth Paltrow is made to say the word “shagging” over and over again in order to convince people she’s British. More than anything else, I think it’s the use of the word “shagging” that really pisses me off about Sliding Doors. It’s one of those awful British stereotypes that Americans have but, in actuality, is a stark contrast to the way people speak. Of course, it could be a 90s thing; I was only 10 when this film first came out. Although, I’m still fairly certain people didn’t use the word “shag” in the many varied contexts that Gwyneth Paltrow does.

Anyway, it’s hardly the most important thing about the film. That is the gimmick that we see the two difference paths that Paltrow’s PR Exec, Helen, could take depending on whether she does or doesn’t make it onto The Tube on time. As gimmicks go it’s pretty interesting and it is quite fun to see the two versions of Helen lives play out alongside the other. In the first, she makes the train and gets home to discover her boyfriend cheating on her. This pushes her into the path of the charming and silly, James (John Hannah), who encourages Helen to move on with her life and pursue her dreams. In the second, Helen doesn’t find out and lives in blissful ignorance whilst bankrolling her boyfriend’s infidelity working two jobs.

You see, Sliding Doors, above all else, is a fairly bland romantic-comedy with a gimmick that raises it above the rest but that only succeeds because of its cast. It is an imaginative take on a tired genre but there still isn’t a great deal of creativity. A woman leaves her cheating man and gets a new haircut in one strand whilst she remains dowdy and brunette in the other. This doesn’t try and use the premise for anything interesting or deep. It’s literally just about which man she ends up with. It’s a rather shallow narrative that is able to hide behind its charming cast and feel like a much better film. Really, as I’ve always sort of suspected, it’s nothing I should waste time with. It’s a shagging travesty.

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