In CHANGING LANES, by NOTTING HILL's director Roger Michell, high priced
lawyer Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck) is having a bad day, a really bad day. If
he doesn't recover a key file that he lost, he may have to trade his marble
and glass office in for a prison cell.
Doyle Gibson (Samuel L. Jackson), a poor everyman who works as an insurance
telemarketer when he's not attending AA meetings, is having just as bad a
day. Because he was twenty minutes late to court, he lost custody of his
children who are about to be relocated 3,000 miles away.
The men owe their problems to a traffic accident that they had together.
This one-day-in-life-of story of these two men concerns the revenge, remorse
and guilt they have as they battle each other as punishment for the other's
sins. At once different and alike, their conflict is much slower paced and
cerebral that the plot would lead you to suspect. The director manages to
make an hour and a half feel like two, which would be a real problem with
lesser material and still is sometimes in CHANGING LANES. The director
pulls it off but is constantly right on the ragged edge of losing his
Although Affleck and Jackson both deliver strong pieces of work, the
supporting cast proves to be the film's hidden treasure. Toni Collette
plays Gavin's insightful and supportive fellow lawyer and ex-lover. Sydney
Pollack plays Gavin's boss, father-in-law and friend, who may have some
skeletons in his closet. Playing against her usual type, Amanda Peet is
Gavin's all-too-practical wife. Dylan Baker is deliciously sinister as a
hacker for hire who is more than willing to destroy someone's life for the
right fee. And William Hurt, as Doyle's AA sponsor, wisely understands that
there's more to life than just avoiding booze.
In a story that looks like it will fall apart completely at the end -- "So
now what?" as Doyle puts it -- writers Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin manage
to find a way to tie things up without insulting the viewers' intelligence.
I forgot. Did I mention the day that the story takes place? Good Friday,
which proves to have more connotations than just the ironic.
CHANGING LANES runs 1:35. It is rated R for "language" and would be
acceptable for teenagers.
My son Jeffrey, almost 13, gave it only one *, complaining that it was way,
way too slow. He didn't care about any of the characters, and he thought
that the story just didn't work.
Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes