Gwyneth Paltrow Shines In Dual Roles

1998 was a career year for Gwyneth Paltrow. A rising starlet hot off movies like Seven and Emma, Paltrow that year had major roles in Hush, A Perfect Murder, Great Expectations, Sliding Doors, and Shakespeare In Love. The last one earned her a Best Actress Oscar, won during the heady days of Harvey Weinstein’s Miramax dominating Hollywood. The adaptation of Great Expectations she did with Ethan Hawke is criminally underrated.

The sly British romcom Sliding Doors highlights Paltrow’s versatility and adaptability, adopting an uncanny British accent and having her play the same character in dual roles through deft movie magic. Director Peter Howitt’s intriguing film explores two different possible tracks in a young woman’s life from the simple act of missing the subway train one day. Her career and love life take wildly divergent paths, contemplating the different relationship choices she has made.

Sliding Doors is tailor-made for Gwyneth Paltrow and her beguiling star-power. Set in London, the British movie also stars John Hannah, John Lynch, and Jeanne Tripplehorn. The engaging romantic comedy is tinged with bittersweet drama, sprucing up the tired romcom formula.

Paltrow plays Helen, a publicist just fired from her job. Parallel lives emerge from Helen missing the morning train, one in which she meets the friendly James (John Hannah) and another in which she sticks with her current boyfriend. Helen’s life is primarily affected by the cowardice and poor choices of her two-timing boyfriend, Gerry (John Lynch). Supposedly writing his first novel, the cad is caught up in an affair with his ex-girlfriend Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Making it worse, Gerry is living off Helen’s income.

Sliding Doors highlights Paltrow’s versatility and adaptability

The alternate paths complement and contrast with each other in the intricately woven narrative. Drawn in by the charming James in one of the dual lives, he’s a breath of fresh air for her life compared against the Helen trapped in a bad relationship with Gerry.

Sliding Doors largely avoids making grand statements on the metaphysics of what’s happening to Helen. It’s a twist sprucing up what is otherwise a charming but straightforward British romcom. James is a sweet but somewhat forgettable romantic lead. However, he’s a perfect counterpoint to the indecisive Gerry, a man that truly doesn’t know what he wants. Gerry’s continued indecision stringing Helen and Lydia along, wreaking their lives in the process, make him a perfect cad in a romantic comedy.

Sliding Doors stands out as one of Paltrow’s best roles. Switching back and forth with ease, you get to see her play two very different Helens. If you enjoy the former star and can handle an imaginative romcom, everything comes together for a delightful twist on the formulaic genre.

Video

The new transfer provides satisfying definition and appreciable HD-quality resolution for the 1998 film. Shout Factory licenses Sliding Doors from Paramount and almost certainly used the existing 2K transfer that recently appeared in Europe.

The fine 1.78:1 presentation slightly opens the theatrical 1.85 aspect ratio. Supposedly taken from the camera negative, a few scenes derive from an interpositive, filling a handful of uncensored moments intended for the original UK edition. Fans should be happy with how everything turned out on Blu-ray.

Some softness is visible. The film-like transfer captures the smoothly-shot cinematography, properly rendering the light grain structure and fine detail. Color saturation and contrast aren’t dialed up for videophiles, leaving somewhat pale fleshtones. It’s a clean, consistent HD presentation of adequate video quality. The jump is quite massive from the original DVD, showcasing far better black levels and texture.

Audio

Two fine audio choices are included, both apparently in their uncensored UK versions. To get a Stateside PG-13 rating, a few vulgarities were dubbed out. The decidedly more impressive 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack has cleaner separation and more discrete activity, especially when it comes to the film’s various songs.

The soundtrack inclusions are of their time, including popular acts such as Dido and Jamiroquai. Dialogue is nicely balanced within the mix, which focuses on the front soundstage. Minor rear activity includes a few nice touches. This is a romcom after all and the sound design isn’t going to wake your neighbors.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font. The secondary 2.0 DTS-HD MA audio offers intelligible dialogue but creates a less impressive soundstage than its surround sibling.

Extras

Shout Factory delivers the goods with this collector’s edition of Sliding Doors. Listed as #100 in their excellent Shout Select line, it arrives on Blu-ray with an interesting slipcover and reversible cover art. The new cover art is fantastic, emphasizing the movie’s central duality.

Hitting Blu-ray for the first time, the original DVD release by Paramount had zero special features. Shout Factory corrects that with an impressive new documentary and audio commentary. They secure interviews with critical cast members, including new ones with Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah. Rarely do catalog movies at this level get extended interviews with Hollywood stars like Paltrow, long after the movie has been released.

Already released in Germany and the UK on Blu-ray, Shout Factory’s BD is the one to get for fans. The Blu-ray is locked to Region A.

Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Peter Howitt – A somewhat unfocused solo commentary that touches on a wide range of topics, though all too often falls into Howitt narrating the action on screen. He’s clearly fond of Sliding Doors and the process behind making it, but rarely provides penetrating insight into its mysteries. You’ll pick up a few neat things about casting and such.

“The Sliding Doors Moments” (74:09 in HD) – The new feature-length documentary takes an in-depth approach as it goes behind the scenes, guided by writer and director Peter Howitt’s comments. The backbone of it is all the exclusive footage taken by Howitt making the film back in 1998. Deciding that he wanted to document everything, you get fascinating and candid glimpses of the director at work: working with the editor, calling the cast, location footage and more. New interviews With Peter Howitt, Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hannah and a litany of crew members make for an excellent peek behind the scenes.

A Stroll Through Sliding Doors London With Peter Howitt (12:25 in HD) – The new featurette sees the director revisiting many of the spots seen in Sliding Doors, including the phonebooth that inspired the entire premise to begin with and the subway station.

Theatrical Trailer (01:56 in HD)

TV Spot Trains (00:32 in HD)

TV Spot Unique (00:32 in HD)

TV Spot Sparks (00:32 in HD)

TV Spot Home Video (00:14 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Sliding Doors
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Movie

A smart, engaging romcom that uses movie magic exploring Gwyneth Paltrow playing two different versions of the same character.

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