Just what I expected
This is a coming of age storyline that you've seen in one form or another for decades. It takes a truly unique voice to make yet another one worth watching.
It's simply great fun, a winsome film and an occasionally over-the-top luxury fantasy that never flags.
An old-fashioned movie made with new-fashioned finesse.
Gavin Baneck (Ben Affleck) is a lawyer who is on his way to an important court hearing when he is involved in a minor fender-bender with Doyle Gipson (Samuel L Jackson) an alcoholic businessman whom is also on his way to court for a custody hearing between his wife and kids. Baneck is so pre-occupied with getting to court on time that he is only interested in paying Gipson off rather than doing the right thing which annoys Gipson. This seemingly minor fender-bender sets off a chain of events which proves to be a fairly life-changing day for both men....The interesting thing about Changing Lanes is that I can see it as being a film that will easily divide the masses; on the one hand some may see it as a ridiculous, far-fetched and increasingly improbable affair that lacks any sort of logic and on the other hand others may view it as being an alarmingly accurate social commentary on how seemingly rational people will resort to increasingly desperate and unreasonable measures in order to get one up on their rival. Naturally, I can see arguments for both points of view and will attempt to give a balanced review...Despite what people may think I for one can totally believe in the foundation of this story; two people, both frustrated and perhaps not paying attention collide on the freeway. The lawyer is rich and is so wrapped up in his own affairs that he attempts to buy the poorer man off. The poor man, despite his misgivings has some moral fibre and wants things done right, but the hot-shot lawyer is in too much of a hurry and disappears leaving the poor man with no car and a massive sense of frustration. This side of it I get and I can fully believe that this type of thing is believable which makes the foundation of the film work, but there are other events in this film that don't make much sense, are hard to believe or are just plain contrived....Baneck drops a load of paperwork on the floor in front of Gipson and Gipson happens to pick up the most important document out of everything that Baneck had in his possession. Possible? Maybe. Contrived? Certainly. Baneck's secretary recommends that Baneck gets in touch with a guy who can fix everything and solve Baneck's problems (which results in poor Gipson becoming bankrupt). This guy that Baneck's secretary knows just uses a computer to empty his bank account in order to declare Gipson bankrupt, but there is no indication as to who he is or how he achieves this???? He's just some guy with a PC who presses a couple of buttons and hey voila!!! Who is he working for and how has this skill-set been acquired?? On a slightly lesser note, I'm also puzzled as to why on a busy American Highway that not one person would pull over after an accident as an independent witness??? This is a lesser point and I realise it would kill the narrative, but in the real world I don't believe that none of the following drivers would have stopped. I also wasn't entirely impressed with Samuel L Jackson's character; he's an alcoholic and a f***up, but there's little explanation or insight into his character which is a shame as we're never given much of an understanding of him.Despite some of the ridiculous contrivances mentioned above where the film does come good is in its representation of the two main characters; both men (in their own ways) are fairly self-obsessed individuals who fail to look at the bigger picture and predictably this comes to the fore in the closing stages creating a rather safe and predictable end.I've given this film quite a lot of stick, but to be fair I did quite enjoy the film. The interesting thing with this film is that both men are rational at the start and I don't believe that the two men were bad in any way shape or form. I personally just think that these men both collided (I think metaphorically as well) and something as trivial as being late for court appointments and missing paperwork can cause irrational and unexplainable thought processes.Overall, it's a decent enough social commentary/character study, but with some rough edges.
Anyone with knowledge of courts and the law will find the initial plot device absurd. If the original power of appointment was such an important and irreplaceable document, the firm partners should have had Atty. Gavin Banek go to court to file the document escorted with security guards. More realistically, they would have filed a motion with a certified copy of the document, and later file the original if necessary. That Gavin, knowing the document was irreplaceable nonetheless brings it out of the car to be inadvertently dropped is also quite silly. The other nonsense is that Gavin had to be on time at the hearing, or else, even after suffering the traffic accident. Having Gavin do other things on such a precarious day, like interview job candidates, makes no sense. That Gavin is one of the partners son-in-law further piles on the absurdity.Meanwhile, Doyle Gibson, while no lawyer, does some very stupid things of his own, like not cashing on the opportunity and picking up a computer in a bank and throwing it down to the floor (with no consequences). Later Gavin very tensely confronts the same officer, who seemingly not having learned his lesson, continues to behave like a jerk. I was expecting Gavin to throw down to the floor his newly installed computer too.Then we have Master Hacker, who can with just a name enter a man's banking and credit accounts and delete them all and declare him bankrupt, and later undo all these things, all in just minutes. He is a useful, convenient but totally unreal device. Why use him instead of hiring some goons to force Doyle to return the document, well, I guess the reason was that Gavin did not know any goons, only Master Hacker.Gavin gets panicky and activates the sprinklers in the office in order to access a file. Water flows in buckets for minutes while people are forced to evacuate and firemen rush in. Gavin returns later in the evening and the office seems OK, no signs of the deluge. Hell, even one of the interview boys is still around.Why then the 5 stars you may ask? The film seemed good intended. And contrary to others, I liked the denouement. A lot.
Changing Lanes is fundamentally about two men who do bad things but are trying to do better. The main difference is that one is endorsed by society -- Ben Affleck's wall street banker -- and one isn't -- Samuel L. Jackson's alcoholic deadbeat dad. This difference in their social stations drives them into a conflict that causes both of them to revert to their worst impulses.As much as it offers ordinary revenge thrills, Changing Lanes is notable for recognizing the complexity and inequality of our social structure, which dominates even the most powerful of the characters in the film. Even the most obvious villains have reasons for their actions, and one can see how they're pushed into playing out their social roles. At the same time, it's not entirely deterministic -- there are right things to do, but they're difficult, usually involving hurting someone or giving up on some principle or another.Affleck acquits himself relatively well, although he's still Ben Affleck. Jackson is predictably great, as this is back when he still sometimes cared, and Amanda Peet is fantastic in a brief but memorable role as Affleck's amoral wife. Of course, the film is more than a bit melodramatic, with things escalating to a ridiculous extent over the course of one day, and the attempt at reforming Affleck's character towards the end feels a bit forced. It's still a mainstream Hollywood drama, and never really deviates from that style. But it's better than most such dramas, and is in the end a nice film that's been already forgotten as part of the ebb and flow of popular cinema. That forgetting is kind of justified -- it certainly won't go on anyone's best-ever list, resting as it does in the realm of the merely above-average -- but it's still worth a couple hours of your time.
To me, this movie was a depiction of the tension between the needs of the ego of the immature person and the needs of a person to follow their bliss and serve more than the ego as one becomes a true adult. The scene in front of the painting where Gavin Banek describes the girl at the beach is a description of a person wrenched between the "house' they have spent their life building and the call TODAY to the life you were meant to live: "It's like you go to the beach. You go down to the water. It's a little cold. You're not sure you want to go in. There's a pretty girl standing next to you, and you know that if you just asked her your name, you would leave with her. Forget your life, whoever you came with, and leave the beach with her. And after that day, you remember. Not every day, every week
she comes back to you. It's the memory of another life you could have had. Today is that girl." Gavin (and Doyle?) finds the "edge" that everyone should find, where you find a way to use your talents in service of your calling. Unfortunately, usually first it involves the fall. Then, comes the lane change. I loved the acting and directing as well.