Archives for posts with tag: jeanne tripplehorn

This came out in between A Few Good Men and Interview with the Vampire, and that feels about right. And apparently there was a time when you could cast David Strathairn as Tom Cruise’s black sheep of a brother. The early nineties were weird.

Mitch McDeere (Cruise) works his way through Harvard Law by waiting tables. He is married to Abby (Jeanne Tripplehorn), who is from a well-off family and gave up everything to be with him. This comes up a lot but never pays off. Every law firm wants to hire him, but despite Abby’s Stepford heebiejeebies, he takes a job at a small family outfit in Memphis. They assign him Avery Tolar (Gene Hackman) as his mentor.

MV5BMTgxMjM5NDYwM15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwODkzMzk5MDE@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_Abby’s reservations do not go away, and then people start dying in the Caymans, which, in the nineties, was probably the most suspicious place for inconvenient people to die. To stir the pot unnecessarily arrives an FBI agent in the person of a bald Ed Harris. He wants Mitch to help the FBI take down the eponymous Firm, which launders money for the Chicago mob. But this interferes with Mitch’s honest lawyering! Disclosing those documents would violate lawyer-client confidentiality, which sounds less bad than laundering money for a crime family, but I’m not a lawyer, so I could be wrong.

Meanwhile Mitch’s mom lives in a trailer park and his brother is in prison and he hires Eddie Lomax (Gary Busey) to investigate things. Tammy (Holly Hunter) works for Lomax, because of course she does. And everyone is being hunted by a near-albino man.

Obviously this will proceed in the manner which will allow Tom Cruise to set his jaw the most righteously. And apparently everyone just had Mickey Finns lying around all the time back then, and few qualms about using them. Basically, most of the people in this movie play painfully close to type, which works because most of the plot in this movie is a series of painful clichés. I’d cut it slack for being the Casablanca of overwrought legal dramas, thereby exonerating it from the charge of banality, but it’s not that good even if you correct for that.

Director: Sydney Pollack
Rating: R
Length: 154 minutes
Score: 3/5

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There was a time, in movies, when Gwyneth Paltrow would make out with John Hannah and audiences would go, “Okay, sure,” and not be sarcastic. It’s hard to imagine. But we don’t have to imagine it, because Sliding Doors is on Netflix and we can just watch that.

The premise is simple: either Helen (Ms. Paltrow) makes a train or she doesn’t. If she makes the train, she meets James (Mr. Hannah) on it. She also catches her boyfriend, Gerry (John Lynch), cheating on her with Lydia (Jeanne Tripplehorn). If she doesn’t, she doesn’t. We watch both options play out.

Helen is that rare thing in films: a woman who has more than one thing going on. She cares about her career, she cares about her boyfriend, and she cares about her friends. She gets drunk and is sad, she worries that he hasn’t called, she sometimes doesn’t know what to do. It’s great, and Ms. Paltrow is good in both parts: the Helen that catches Gerry and makes immediate major life changes (you might remember that adorable pixie cut) with the help of her friend Anna (Zara Turner), and the Helen who…doesn’t. You’re initially disappointed in Helen for ever falling for Gerry’s particular brand of nonsense–he’s a writer, and she supports him, plus of course he’s a spineless cheating jerk–but then she mostly starts making much better decisions, so it’s not irritatingly hard to watch.

James is charming, and maybe slightly too quirky, but it’s also nice to see how he likewise has a family and a life and doesn’t spend all his time creepily following Helen around, as he would if this were a normal romantic comedy. He just notices that she’s sad and buys her a milkshake, and then things develop. Perhaps one of the things I look for in films is a plot that doesn’t demand weird dramatic gestures or fairy tales. It’s much better to see characters make a connection through reasonable common ground and plausible physical attraction. You know, like people.

On the other hand, Lydia is kind of a caricature, and she intermittently draws Gerry into her absurd orbit. These are the weakest bits of the film. Fortunately you have Helen and James to pull your focus back.

Oh, yeah, the clothes are awful. Even Ms. Paltrow almost drowns in some of the horrible boxy garbage. And only she can wear those slips people wore as dresses for outside back then.

Stray observations:

  • “Shagging” used as an explicit gerund is maybe the worst example of awkward bowdlerizing I’ve ever seen, and if people actually used it habitually in London in the late 90s, then London in the late 90s was a sad place.
  • John Hannah has infinite goodwill with me, but I guess your mileage may vary.

Director: Peter Howitt
Rating: R
Length: 99 minutes
Score: 4/5