Two late-90s British Romantic Comedies

I own Sliding Doors (1998) mostly because it was in a $5 dollar bin. It's one of the better films you can get in one of those bins because, while it's no cinematic masterpiece, it's quite enjoyable. It's the perfect movie to put on when you're cleaning or packing or doing laundry. You don't have to pay very much attention except to the parts that are delightful.

Still in her non-British British actress stage, Gwyneth Paltrow plays Helen, a PR expert who gets fired from her job. On her way home after her unpleasant sacking, she misses the train home.But wait! This is a romantic comedy so we also see her barely catch the train (which is helpfully accompanied by magical chimes). From here we see the two paths her life could take: one where she gets home early to find her boyfriend Gerry having sex with another woman, the other where she has to find another, longer way home and misses catching her boyfriend cheating. This moment is also where I tend to either tune out/fast forward through one half of the film. Believe me when I say that the storyline that involves Helen being oblivious to her idiotic boyfriend's antics is 3/4 unbearable. I can't think of a more loathsome character than Gerry; he can't decide which woman he wants and then feels bad about it. We have to hear him talk to himself in the mirror, to his unsympathetic friend, and his lover about it. Kill me now.

The film is really saved by the other half of the film where Helen meets the kind and persistent James (John Hannah). It's a sweet relationship that you get to see build through drinking milkshakes and sculling competitions. And we are even treated to two delightful montages in this story, one of them being a makeover montage where Helen gets a sassy haircut and blonde hair (which is quite helpful thing when they keep switching between Helens).

Sliding Doors
is a good fluff film that's at least half decent. And fairly short (99 minutes), so perfect for deep cleaning the refrigerator.

I happened upon Martha, Meet Frank, Daniel and Laurence* (1998) while perusing Netflix. I ended up watching this because of my love of Joseph Fiennes and Rufus Sewell. But mostly of Joseph Fiennes. Ahem. Anyway, it's a breezy (88 minutes) romcom that involves three childhood friends and the girl who they all fall for.

Martha (Monica Potter) is an American who decides to up and move to England. On plane there, she meets a music producer or something Daniel (Tom Hollander) who is instantly smitten by her, and he tries to woo her through bumping her to first class (through ridiculous means I might add). Daniel tells his friends Frank (Rufus Sewell) and Laurence (Joseph Fiennes) about the girl, and Frank, the drunken, unemployed actor blaggard that he is, discovers her in a park and decides to try to get with her himself she's so lovely. Little do either of them know, Laurence encountered her in the airport and was bullied into giving her a ride into London. This time Martha is the one that's smitten, although Laurence likes her soon enough. The conflict? Martha doesn't know they're all friends! And Daniel and Frank are ignorant of Laurence's involvement since they're both self-centered bastards!

But wait! It's a romantic comedy, so Laurence is obviously telling his psychiatrist neighbor about this whole mess early in the morning!

Whatever. It's an amusing enough movie. Honestly, this is the first time I've probably ever seen Rufus Sewell not play a scorned lover/nobleman. He's quite funny actually. And of course we get to see Joseph Fiennes with his love-stricken look that he does so well. Yes, I'm swooning. So really, it's a movie to watch for the people in it, not necessarily for it's ground breaking cinematic quality.

And as with both of these movies, they at least avoid the most painful romcom tropes (to me): the woman pining after some jerk of a man (Rufus Sewell in The Holiday) and the drunken escape paving the way to love (every other romantic comedy). So good things all around. Plus, it's already been a decade since they've been released, so you can laugh at some of the styles and musical choices while reveling in the fantastic UK accents.

1998 Joseph Fiennes. Wonderful. Oh, and Monica Potter is pretty charming too.

*or, as it was released in the US, The Very Thought of You. What's up with the name change? Does every romantic comedy really need to be named after a song? I'm looking at you Simply Irresistable, Someone Like You, It Could Happen to You, et al. Or was that just the 90s?


  1. I have seen both of these films and I'm pretty sure it's thanks to the Oxygen network. I don't have cable but I think that channel still exists. It used to play pretty decent romantic films before it got sucked into the satanic vortex of reality television. Okay, satanic is not the word, but you know what I mean-Bad. When I was a fifth/sixth grader, Joseph Fiennes was one of my dream men. Who else looks so good in a doublet, right?

    I'm rambling. You should see "Next Stop Wonderland." That was another one I found thanks to Oxygen when I was a kid. It came out in '98 and is an American film, but Hope Davis is in it and she's a good actress and I really kind of love it. It's like a more realistic (well, Sort Of) Sleepless in Seattle. I don't know how you feel about Philip Seymour Hoffmann (sp?) but he's in it as well. Oh, and there is awesome bossa nova music.

  2. If you love Rufus Sewell and want to see him outside of the lover/ nobleman/ general evil-doer that his roles tend to confine him to, you absolutely must watch the BBC adaptation of 'Taming of the Shrew' that he was in. He wasn't short of brilliant in it.

    It's a modern update, so no Shakespearean language and most of the other adaptations in the series fell below par for TVMs but that one was classic, check it out.

    It was dubbed ShakespeaRetold: (oh so clever...) The Taming of the Shrew.... er, 2006, I think.