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CHANGING LANES

Samuel L Jackson, Ben Affleck, Toni Collette, Sydney Pollack, William Hurt

Directed by: Roger Michell
Produced by: Scott Rudin
Written by: Michael Tolkin, Chap Taylor, Anthony Picharillo
Distributor: Paramount Pictures

US: 12/04/02 UK: 01/11/02

An arrogant lawyer (like there are other types) and a down-and-out businessman become involved in a minor traffic accident in Manhattan. As a result, the two men accidentally swap briefcases, the contents of which cause a heated battle with legal as well as financial repercussions.
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"Just admit it Affleck, You wear a rug all the time right?"




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A profoundly involving film about the unravelling of a pair of lives due to petty anger, this is surprisingly thoughtful entertainment from big stars, courtesy British director Michell (Notting Hill). The set-up is simple: High-powered New York lawyer Gavin (Affleck) is trying to get some important documents to court. Insurance salesman Doyle (Jackson) is going to court to try to stop his wife (Staunton) from moving across the country with their sons. En route, they have a minor fender bender. But instead of sorting out the details like adults, they descend into an all-out feud, getting more and more personal as the day progresses. And soon a small incident has the ability to destroy both of their lives for good.

Fortunately, the script never goes all Hollywood-stupid on us. Despite some slightly contrived plotting, the themes are drawn out wonderfully without being manipulative or obvious. And it never degenerates into a star vehicle for either of the lead actors. This is another effective role for Affleck (along with The Sum of All Fears), in that it doesn't require him to be a hero or carry the film; rather, he can put his relatively bland subtlety to fine use as a slippery guy with suppressed pangs of conscience. Meanwhile, Jackson plays against type as a nerdy good guy who seems to attract utter chaos. And their characters are broadened and deepened by back-stories and fine support from Collette (as Gavin's colleague and ex-mistress), Pollack (Gavin's boss and father-in-law), Peet (Gavin's wife), Hurt (Doyle's AA sponsor), and so on. There's a lot going on in the film, and yet the themes all focus in perfectly on the escalating central conflict, constantly putting us into Gavin's and Doyle's shoes and making us wonder what our next move would be in their place. OK, so it all gets a bit tidy at the end, leaving most of the repercussions off screen for us to wonder about. But by then it's certainly got us thinking about what's really important in life and society.

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