Dorian's Movie Reviews

Is it worth seeing? Reviews are presented with no cynicism, no comparisons, no biased standards, no pretentiousness - every movie is reviewed on its individual entertainment value including technical presentation.  
Scale 1 - 5
Changing Lanes
2002, Paramount Pictures
Directed by Roger Michell
Screenplay by Chap Taylor and Michael Tolkin.
From a story by Chap Taylor.

Does being powerful mean never having to say your sorry? Just, "Better luck next time." Or powerful or not, is saying, "Sorry," enough to make up for screwing up the rest of someone's life? And once you begin screwing up someone's life because you are angry, manipulative, and in a battle with them, where do you stop... or do you stop?

A traffic accident brings together two men who are very like each other in temperament. Both have problems with life. Doyle Gipson (Samuel L. Jackson) is a recovering alcoholic on the brink of losing his family forever. He is dead set on doing everything right. He has one serious hurdle on his horizon, Gavin Banek. Gavin Banek (Ben Affleck), is on a power trip in a career speed lane. When the two collide on an interstate highway in busy New York traffic, Gavin not only refuses to provide his insurance card, he refuses to give Doyle a ride to court where there is a hearing about visitation for his children. Gavin might have done so with impunity, but he drops an important file that he must have to win a court case that is critical to his law firm.

Doyle is late, and not only loses visitation, his ex-wife announces she is moving to the other coast so Doyle will never see his children again. In another court room, Gavin lies about his lost file and must find Doyle to get it back - without an address. Gavin, a partner in his father-in-law's law firm, begins to realize just how important that file is to the firm, and wonders why. He comes face to face with the reality that he is an unwitting pawn used to trick clients to make the law firm wealthier. He looks at what he is becoming and is not pleased.

Unable to get Doyle to give him the file, Gavin, having already lied twice, elects the path of progressively destroying Doyle's life to force him to give it back. Doyle, feeling the pain of Gavin's onslaught, strikes back. Both men actually want to do the right thing, but each time they are faced with a decision, they make the wrong choice.

This is not a "preachy" movie - we aren't force fed someone's idea of morality. It isn't inside a church or during confession that the character resolves his moral dilemma through outside intervention. We don't even know if he is actually a religious person. What we see are the results of the character's behavior. At the end, the characters change and make their own decisions about how they will handle things in the future - the right thing.

What is the right thing? This movie might make you ask.

Several fine actors give very convincing performances in this movie. Ben Affleck, as Gavin, begins as the powerful stone wall, master of his destiny, one of the gods of Homer's epics who can walk the earth and mangle people's lives with impunity and is not moved by anything. His foundation is shaken when he gets a good look at himself, and he makes an earnest try to turn himself around: his lies, his cheating on his wife, his callous disruption of another's life. But life is relentless in its torture. Soon he is shouting at priests, demanding meaning in his life. At his low he is hiding behind telephone booths watching with glee as his nemesis is crushed. In the end he is a person who takes control of his destiny.

Samuel L. Jackson, as Doyle, has put his feet on the right path, taking action to buy the home he should have provided for his family. But life is about to try his resolve. He gets a good look at himself and what he is capable of doing, and his world is shaken. Alcohol is only a symptom of his problem. He changes from being determined to do right, to being determined to get revenge. Then he is destroying the bank, and future opportunities, and then all of the anger inside spills out against those who he believes have held him back, erupting in a fist fight. In the end he also is a person who takes control of his destiny, instead of destiny controlling him.

Sydney Pollack, who plays Delano, the patriarch of the law firm, seizes the screen with all of the power and presence of his character, a man who has the power to dominate others with no second guessing.

Also noteworthy are flawless performances by Kim Staunten as Doyle's ex-wife, Valerie; Toni Collette as Michelle, Gavin's confidant and ex-lover; and Amanda Peet as Gavin's permissive wife, Cynthia.

The cinematography is excellent. Despite being shot in a suite with glass walls, there were no distracting lighting reflections.

This movie portrays visually the struggles of conscience of two men - a major accomplishment.

The selection of sets and decoration of the sets, appropriate to the drama, is excellent and full of symbolic portrayal of the realities of the character's lives.

This is the first movie to which I give 5 spotlights. It isn't because everyone "should" see it. It gets five spotlights because it is a very engaging and entertaining drama, and it not only does well the plot, characterization and technical (production design, cinematography, editing), it goes the distance with honest characters dealing with honest situations that we all face, with the characters finding honest solutions, rendering an honest look at the human condition. It achieves an exceptional amount of what a movie can achieve, and to me is on a level with The Game. Of course, exceptional doesn't mean perfect or that there are none better - there was room for improvement.

I give this one five spotlights out of a possible five for the writing, acting, directing, production design, casting, editing, music, cinematography, and entertainment value. It carries an R rating. Enjoy!

My comments below attempt to draw attention to things that make a movie good, especially if they made major contributions. This is not a professional assessment. For professional judgments on these various arts, the reader should consult professionals in these arts.

  • Writing - great intro (quick setup and characterization), engaging, characterization, plotting, honesty (Honest), interaction with the set, use of symbols, and very visually presented. Five spotlights. This is the first produced screenplay for Chap Taylor. Wow.
  • Acting - great acting in great parts. Memorable scenes. Five spotlights.
  • Casting - nicely chosen actors in all parts. Five spotlights.
  • Directing - the scenes flowed well, the story was cohesive, the drama was told visually, and the performance reflected good crew delivery and technical production. Accomplished with finesse. Five spotlights.
  • Production design - the set was well integrated with the action, with well chosen symbols reflecting the environments of the characters, were characters in themselves, and made a major contribution to making the entire production very visual. Five spotlights.
  • Editing - the action flowed smoothly, captured good action and character reactions, and put together a coherent story. Five spotlights.
  • Music - seamless, and complimented the action.
  • Cinematography - well executed, overcame technical hurdles (lighting reflections), and told the story visually. Five spotlights.

- Dorian


  • 5 Spotlights: The best of movie making, well worth seeing (rarely given)
  • 4 Spotlights: Good movie for the genre; may have minor technical or story problems but they hardly harm the enjoyment; clearly worth seeing; (most movies)
  • 3 Spotlights: Not bad, but has problems - worth seeing
  • 2 Spotlights: Caution - a "B" movie, probably will appeal only to some
  • 1 Spotlight: Caution - not recommended for any audience (will probably never be given)

Note: No half spotlights are given.

My reviews are not based much on my personal taste, or any standard besides entertainment value. I try to be as objective as possible, keeping in mind that entertainment value is very subjective and individualized. If I'm not interested in a movie I usually don't go see it, so it doesn't get reviewed. Each character, and each position in the production company might be highlighted if the contribution affected the enjoyment of the story as either outstanding or dismal and I noticed it, keeping in mind that many contributions are singularly distinguished by their seamless integration with the story, not calling attention to themselves and thereby escaping attention.

- Dorian Scott Cole

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