Plot interferes with point of ‘Lanes’

The beginning and end of Changing Lanes are both the best and the worst parts of the film. They depict how each character is like before an auto accident and after. But what happens to each character in the middle is where Changing Lanes has the chance to inspire.

At its pinnacle, the film is about redemption. But mostly it resorts to a revenge drama driven by testosterone and therefore becomes disappointingly mediocre.

Alcoholic divorcees and ruthless lawyers tend to have their own demons to deal with. But when they meet, it can be disastrous.

While this seems to be the overriding theme of Changing Lanes, an exposé into how one unfortunate circumstance can send two people into a tailspin of rage and hostility, the real story is the internal discovery made during the debacle.

Samuel L. Jackson (Doyle) and Ben Affleck (Gavin) play the respective alcoholic and lawyer who meet on the side of a road following a fender bender.

While this scenario happens every minute of every day, the endless depths to which these two guys fall as a result seems implausible at best.

They are each running late to what turns out to be the most important meeting of their lives. Gavin has to present important signed documents to a judge and Doyle has one last chance to plead his case in a custody battle.

When each meeting ends in the worst possible scenario, they blame each other.

While the culmination of each character’s plight is not the complete fault of the other character, it’s easier to blame him instead of looking for the root of the problem.

Changing Lanes is different because neither character is the hero. Rather both men are flawed and angry, and both are at fault. At one point, the slice-of-life premise promises a simple drama between two egos and one conflict. That would have worked.At another point, both characters emerge as better people as a result of the situation. That would have inspired.

But in the end, too much time is spent discussing a lost document and a missed custody hearing. It’s these smaller elements and what they mean that drives these characters into a war.

It’s the constant bickering and too many plot diversions that ultimately drag down an otherwise powerful film.

On one hand, the inclusion of William Hurt, Sydney Pollack, Toni Collette and Amanda Peet in smaller roles sounds like a good idea. But while all of them are commendable in their roles, when they all get together in a small character drama they end up bogging down a film that is better when played on one level.

And that seems to be the running problem throughout Changing Lanes. When you take a fascinating study and try to make it complicated by adding too many elements, it’s usually a good idea to use your turn signals.

Changing Lanes is Rated R