America really has a love thing going on with its young stars, such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon. But as the recent remake of "The Man in the Iron Mask" showed, it's possible to get too much of them - especially if they're playing dual roles.
So the romantic fantasy "Sliding Doors" is definitely pushing its point by giving us Gwyneth Paltrow, especially when she's using an English accent that's almost as bad as DiCaprio's surfer-dude-gone-French affectations.The film also has some serious chemistry problems. The pairing of Paltrow and co-star John Hannah ("Four Weddings and a Funeral") sets off no romantic sparks whatsoever, even though their romance is crucial to the story.
To be fair, it is an interesting idea that first-time writer/director Peter Howitt has conceived: looking at almost all of the consequences of a crucial moment in a person's life. But "It's a Wonderful Life" this definitely ain't.
Instead, the focus here is on a more self-centered character, young British advertising exec Helen (Paltrow), whose all-important act constitutes making it to the subway station on time, which allows her to catch her weaselly boyfriend, Gerry (John Lynch, from "In the Name of the Father"), with his ex-girlfriend, Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn).
Distraught over the betrayal as well as losing her job, Helen is consoled by the charming and witty James (Hannah) and begins dating him.
Here's where things get really weird: The movie also shows what happens when Helen (for the sake of clarity, let's call her "Helen II") doesn't get to the subway station on time, doesn't catch Gerry's indiscretion and continues living in somewhat blissful ignorance.
But Howitt's story stalls at that point, and from there on things quickly devolve into soap opera-like melodrama, with some disappointing character revelations and a preposterous ending.
And as mentioned, there are some serious casting problems, both with Paltrow and her bad accent, and Tripplehorn with her one-note performance.
More's the pity because both male leads really try to make the material better. Hannah is quite good, and Lynch is able to bring some depth to his character, though they're obviously hampered by Howitt's bad plotting.
"Sliding Doors" is rated R for profanity, vulgar references and jokes, simulated sex, brief female partial nudity and some violent fist fighting.