dir-scr Don Roos
with Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Johnny Galecki, Joe Morton, Natasha Henstridge, Jennifer Grey, Tony Goldwyn, Alex D Linz, David Dorfman, Caroline Aaron, David Paymer, Sam Robards
release US 17.Nov.00; UK 19.Jan.01
Miramax 00/US 2 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
One of those intriguing romantic dramas with a seriously thought-provoking gimmick at its centre, this is a surprising next step for writer-director Roos after the edgy and in-your-face The Opposite of Sex. Surprising because it's such a conventional love story. On a snowbound night in Chicago, the high-flying ad exec Buddy (Affleck), in a rare flash of benevolence, gives his boarding card to a writer (Goldwyn) who wants to go home to his family in L.A. The plane crashes and Buddy descends into serious survivor guilt, eventually contacting the man's young widow (Paltrow) to make sure she and her sons (Linz and Dorfman) are OK. But he's afraid to tell her who he really is. And even more so as they begin to fall in love.

The dark cloud of Buddy's secret hangs over the romance, making the film quite uncomfortable to watch (much like Return to Me, earlier this year, but without the disarming humour). It also undercuts any chemistry between Affleck and Paltrow, who are eminently watchable as usual. Then the plot goes through the usual machinations of a romance--guy gets girl, guy loses girl, yatta yatta yatta. Which is, quite frankly, boring! The only sign of the sharp-witted, subversive Roos of The Opposite of Sex is in the astute dialog and a few un-PC sideroads. Otherwise the film tries to take a disturbing premise and play it safe, which simply doesn't work. It'll still entertain you and make you think about the issues it raises. But it's a wasted opportunity to do anything more interesting.

[12--adult themes, language] 14.Dec.00

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"I wanted to see this movie ever since I saw the previews, and am so glad I did. Affleck plays this 'mover' - a real salesman and full of himself. He has just closed this super ad deal for his company and gotten this airline account. So he is drinking and celebrating - at the Chicago Airport, all flights are delayed, so off to the bar, a few more drinks. He meets this blonde, and ... along comes this guy, married, a writer, desperate to get home to LA, has to sell trees with his son, but his flight is postponed for the next day and he has a guaranteed hotel room, compliments of the airline. So a simple swap is made: Buddy (Affleck) and the blonde get the room, the husband gets the free ticket to Los Angeles that night - and no one's life will be the same. If one did not understand what survivor's guilt was, watching this movie - and Affleck's portrayal of a survivor - would make the point come home. I thought all characters brought real emotion to their parts, and I sat riveted to my seat, at times choking back tears and wondering what I would do if in the same situation. To me, that is a good movie, when you feel it. I intend to see this movie again, may even buy it when it comes out on video, and definitely recommend it to others." --Laurie T, Minneapolis.

2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall