Sliding Doors (1998)
|Year Of Production||1998|
|Running Time||95:05 (Case: 98)|
|RSDL / Flipper||No/No||Cast & Crew|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||Peter Howitt|
Paramount Home Entertainment
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||English Dolby Digital 5.0 (448Kb/s)|
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||1.78:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||1.85:1||Miscellaneous|
|Subtitles||English for the Hearing Impaired||Smoking||Yes|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
The old "what if" scenario has been pretty well plumbed for feature film screenplays, with some notables to indicate that it is not a bad scenario to plumb. The big daddy of them all is probably It's A Wonderful Life, but there have been others. In the past few years we have seen two pretty good ones too: the recently reviewed The Family Man and Sliding Doors.
And so why exactly is Sliding Doors one of the better efforts in the genre? Well, for me it is a nice mix of drama and romantic comedy, with the whole alternate lifelines deal being nicely woven together - although until Helen changes her hair colour and style, you need to concentrate just a little.
Helen Quilley (Gwyneth Paltrow) works for a public relations firm in London, and co-habits with her novelist boyfriend Gerry (John Lynch). Monday sees her rushing to work and being a tad late. Ordinarily this would not cause issue, but Friday saw her "borrow" some alcohol thus annoying her boss when he had nothing to serve a client. So Helen finds herself on the way out of the firm very quickly. Heading for the Underground, we hit the little split in the lifelines. One sees Helen making the train, the other does not.
The making-the-train scenario sees Helen firstly meeting James Hammerson (John Hannah) and then getting home in time to see Gerry making out with his former girlfriend Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). Naturally Helen leaves Gerry, heads off to a local restaurant where she indulges some drinks and meets up again with James. Leaving the restaurant, James offers a lift home and thus starts a new romance. Helen might have lucked out enormously, and with James' encouragement sets up her own PR business, which is quite successful, gets pregnant, sorts of breaks up with James over his marriage and gets back together with him before the climax of this part of the film.
The not-making-the-train scenario sees Helen stuck on the tube station platform when an announcement suggests that passengers seek alternative travel methods owing to a train derailment. Helen heads out to catch a taxi, whereupon she is mugged. A cab driver takes her to hospital for treatment and she thus returns home after Gerry's bit on the side has gone. However, little traces are there and slowly but surely Helen comes to realise this. Helen ends up supporting her no-hoper novelist boyfriend by taking a job as a waitress at the self-same local restaurant and then takes on a sandwich delivery job too. As she works harder and harder to keep her head above water, Gerry heads off for shenanigans with Lydia in Dorset. Lydia plans a way of forcing the issue over getting Gerry to commit to her before the final climax of this part of the film.
The net result of the two separate stories is that they do indeed converge, and this is perhaps the whole point of the film - if it is meant to be, it will indeed come to pass, but the interaction between the two films is what makes this such an interesting mix. Doors open, doors close and the two stories keep on intertwining. So this really is quite a decent story, brought to life by two extremely memorable performances. By far the best here is Gerry's mate Russell, played by Douglas McFerran. He is an absolute hoot and adds just the right sort of comic reaction to his best mate's indecisiveness over his dalliances with Lydia. The other terrific performance is from John Hannah, who adds the comedy aspect of the romantic comedy with serious aplomb. A pity that Gwyneth Paltrow could not quite reach the same level, but she is decent enough in the lead role. This is a rather well directed effort from Peter Howitt, although to be honest this is not a film that is bearing repeated viewings with that much ease.
Nonetheless, this remains a good film and it is well worth digging this one out for a look see.
For such a comparatively recent film, the overall transfer is not as good as I would have expected. The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, and it is 16x9 enhanced.
The main issue with the transfer is a preponderance of grain in the transfer. Whilst it is not really ugly stuff, it is the sort of grain that adds just the wrong amount of diffuseness to the image, as well as making the close up shots give the impression of slightly pock-marked skin. I suppose I should have been expecting this as the Region 1 release always left me a little underwhelmed for much the same reason. Accordingly, it would be reasonable to suggest that most of the problem lies in the source material itself, even though I initially blamed the problem on NTSC formatting.
Other than that issue, the transfer is reasonably sharp and quite well detailed. Obviously the grain creates some problems as regards clarity, which tends to diminish the extent of the absolute depth of detail that I would otherwise expect here. However, it all makes me wish that this was a much clearer transfer, as I am sure it would have made for a marvellously better film. Shadow detail is also reasonable, even though at times the transfer tends towards a slightly darkish look. There did not appear to be any significant low level noise problems in the transfer.
The colours are also not quite as good as I would have liked, but they are at least very decently saturated and have a nice enough vibrancy to them. The result is something that is very natural looking and utterly believable. There is no indication of over saturation in the transfer, not any indication of any colour bleed.
There did not appear to be any significant MPEG artefacts in the transfer. There did not appear to be any significant film-to-video artefacts in the transfer, although general shimmer is noticeable in some of the finer background detail. Despite this being a relatively recent film, there are some rather obvious film artefacts floating around in the transfer, which do occasionally become a tad too obvious for enjoyment sakes.
There is a very restricted range of subtitle options on the DVD, namely one only - English for the Hearing Impaired. From the sample I checked out, these are very decent with only minimal loss of dialogue and none of that really all that important. They are, however, accompanied by "subtitle flash" and some whitish banding in the black bar area of the display, which I always find distracting.
It is interesting to note that both the Region 4 and Region 1 releases are on single layer, single sided DVDs. I keep on having that niggling feeling that perhaps if RSDL formatting had been used, some greater care could have been taken with the mastering of the transfer, that perhaps may have resulted in some improvement in how the transfer looks. Such formatting would also have permitted some extras to be included here...
Just to ensure there is solidarity in the transfers, there is just the one soundtrack on the DVD, being an English Dolby Digital 5.0 soundtrack. Since I had no other choice, I listened to it.
The dialogue comes up well in the transfer and everything is easy to understand. There are no problems with audio sync in the transfer.
The music score comes from David Hirschfelder and to be honest it is a bit of a non-entity really. It is really overshadowed by a nice collection of popular music that is used throughout the film as a sort of replacement for a genuine film score.
So why did we not get a full Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack like the Region 1 release? Well, I don't believe that the Region 1 release has a 5.1 soundtrack, despite being advertised as such. And in all honesty, this is not a film that really requires that low frequency effects channel. There simply is not that much opportunity for it to come into play. And apart from that lack of a channel, there really is not a whole lot to complain about here. The surround channels have some very nice presence and the result is a rather nice, engaging soundtrack. Sure, we could perhaps have expected a bit more presence out of the rear channels, but overall the soundscape here is rather nice indeed. It has a gentle nature to it which of course suits the film very well indeed.
|Surround Channel Use|
Themed along the lines of the slick cover, it has nothing much to do and basically can be ignored.
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The Region 4 release misses out on:
The Region 1 release misses out on:
The lack of 16x9 enhancement would ordinarily place the favour well-and-truly in the court of the Region 4 release, and this is to some extent confirmed by the direct viewing comparison between the two versions, which indicates that the Region 1 release is equally grainy looking, but suffers more from general shimmer in the picture. Despite the less-than-perfect transfer, Region 4 is still the way to go.
Sliding Doors is a film that I am finding increasingly difficult to watch as I become more familiar with it. Still, it is a very decent romantic comedy. Unfortunately, it is not blessed with the greatest transfer that the world has ever seen, and some might find the moderately grainy appearance to be a little grating.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-515, using S-Video output|
|Display||Sony Trinitron Wega (80cm). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Speakers||Energy Speakers: centre EXLC; left and right C-2; rears EXLR; and subwoofer ES-12XL|