May 11, 1998 12:00 PM

Gwyneth Paltrow, John Hannah, John Lynch, Jeanne Tripplehorn

Feature attraction

Sliding Doors, a cleverly amusing romantic comedy, boasts two big assets: 1) the talented Paltrow, who is double dynamite in a dual role and 2) a nifty plot trick that manages to sustain this slight film for far longer than by rights it ought.

Paltrow plays a young Londoner (complete with a decent British accent) who wakes one morning, kisses her aspiring novelist boyfriend (Lynch) goodbye, arrives at work only to find that she has been fired, and then just misses the subway home. But wait. The movie rewinds itself, and Paltrow squeezes through the train’s sliding doors just before they close. Yes, it’s Parallel Universe time. Doors proceeds to track what would happen to Paltrow if she made the train (she meets a terrific new guy on board, arrives home to catch her beau in bed with Tripplehorn, dumps the cheating bum, cuts her hair and dyes it blonde, etc.) and if she missed the train (she’s mugged, fails to discover Lynch two-timing her, keeps her own mousy brown hair, etc.).

As written and directed by first-timer Peter Howitt, Sliding Doors is an entertaining trifle despite an overly melodramatic plot twist or two late in the movie and the depiction of Tripplehorn’s other-woman character as an unmitigated harpy (“Cruella de Vil’s less nice sister,” Paltrow calls her). In addition to Paltrow on the plus side, there is also Hannah (Four Weddings and a Funeral), who displays a certain sputtering charm as the new object of affection in one of Paltrow’s lives. (R)

Bottom Line: Two movies in one, and they are both good fun

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