I fulfilled a long term ambition tonight, to provide a non-director’s commentary for the film Sliding Doors. I had considered doing an audio podcast where I did commentaries for films I love or hate years ago, but it seemed too much of a faff to expect people to locate the film and start it at the right time to watch along. Also a few other people were doing slightly similar things…
But Twitch seems ideal for this, given it is live and Sliding Doors was on iPlayer this week, so anyone in the UK with a TV licence could easily access the movie. It’s a throwaway bit of evening entertainment and a community way of sharing an experience. So I thought I’d give it a go.
And it worked OK, I think. 1300 people tuned in at some point (though to be fair, it’s a difficult thing just to pop into as it would be almost impossible to sync up with the film, but 250+ were in for the long haul. I hadn’t planned what I was going to say, or even seen the film recently (except the first 3 minutes which I’d looked at earlier in the week).
Peter Howitt made a directorial decision of genius by getting all the characters to say “shagging” as a swear word, instead of “fucking”. And even though no one does that in real life (at least not in this universe) it didn’t seem ridiculous in any shagging way. Also the characters keep talking about going out for a Grolsch. Even though no one does that. And the fact that Grolsch had been cool a decade and a bit before and the only remarkable thing about it was the bottle that it came in.
Howitt also did a great job of making sure that there wasn’t a likeable character in the whole thing. It could quite easily be reframed as a psychological thriller where John Hannah turns out to be a stalker/serial killer who ends the film by putting Gwyneth Paltrow’s head in a box. And it would be better if he did. He is creepy and not as funny as he thinks he is, though for some reason (possibly some kind of laughing gas) everyone he hangs around with thinks he is hilarious and not creepy and weird and overbearing. Why does he not tell Gwyneth about his wife? He had plenty of opportunity, but prefers to tell a story about Gary Glitter stealing his 8 year old girlfriend, which would still have bee a bit icky in the days before Glitter’s predilections were widely known about. The only job his silence serves is to give a false sense of drama to the end of the film. And what I really noticed this time is that, in this time line, his lie leads to him losing his new love and his unborn child. It’s not like the time lines converge. John Hannah in this Universe has to lead the rest of his life knowing that if he’d just been honest with Gwyneth (and his mum for whom the whole subterfuge was being carried out) then he would have been a father in a new and loving relationship.
How about a sequel where we see how unhappy he is? Set in the present day. I’ll write it. In fact if it’s just John Hannah in lockdown, drunkenly looking back on the awful quarter of a century he’s had since his idiocy ruined his life, intercut with him trying to find a new girlfriend on line by reciting different Monty Python sketches to them, then we can do it in the next month.
Even in the “happy” timeline Gwyneth loses a baby (more conveniently her cheating ex-boyfriend’s one) so that’s two lives snuffed out by Peter Howitt without any thought for the Universes in which those kids lived, grew up, had kids of their own. No, he’s only interested in a Universe created by missing a train (more accurately by a girl with a doll not getting out of the way/being dragged out of the way). He is a brutal writer/director who cares only for the lives of some boring and unremarkable individuals. And that is why I love him.
The casual disregard of the medical professionals for the lost kids (and the way they blurt out the news to the two dads who didn’t even know about the pregnancies) is pretty astonishing too. Maybe the Gwyneth who died would have been more upset, but the one who lives just thanks the stars for her lucky escape and gets straight on with trying to bang John Hannah in a lift. Does he tell her about his marriage in this timeline? Or will his pointless and needless lies go on to kill her once again?
Michael Palin did not get paid for them murdering his Spanish Inquisition script either. Even though the film made $58 million. It’s a shagging disgrace. I need a Grolsch.
If you can track down a copy of the film, you can still watch along with the video here.
Mon-Fri 8am (or thereabouts) Stone Clearing Live
Mon and Tues 7.30pm Snooker Tourament
Weds 8pm RHLSTP with Robert Webb
On Thursday I am doing Steve McNeil's computer game show.
I will also be finishing off an exciting Football Manager season after the snooker on Monday and there might be a few other surprises along the way.