Serendipity


PG-13
Stars: 
  John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Molly Shannon, Jeremy Piven
Director:    Peter Chelsom
Writer:    Marc Klein

With its New York City winter season setting, holiday lights all aglow, and the very best city locales dusted by powdery snowflakes, Serendipity makes for a magical romantic-comedy of special love and incredible coincidence. You know how much of a fantasy this movie really is because the snow never turns to black slush, that, and the number of coincidences. I think this must be a record number for  any movie!

With that said, here’s a go at the storyline. Cute as a puppy Jonathan Trager (John Cusack) and bright as a button Sarah Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) meet just a few days before Christmas trying to purchase the same and very last pair of black cashmere gloves at New York’s tony Bloomingdale’s Department Store. Despite the fact that they are both in serious relationships, they’re so enamored with one another that off they go for an inspired afternoon into evening long date of snacking and skating.

Sarah, with her New Age mentality solidly affixed, decides to let fate decide their paths in life. She urges Jonathan to write his name and phone number on a five dollar bill while she writes hers in a book that she plans to sell the next day to a used book store. If it’s meant to be, then they will meet again.

What a mistake. Years later they’re still bumbling around, less than totally satisfied with their respective mates, each ready to marry and neither has found the bill or the book. Although, both have tried. But this is more Jonathan’s story and his obsession is complete. With only days left before his marriage to Hallie (Bridget Moynahan), Jonathan suddenly discovers the store receipt for the cashmere gloves and he begins a final frantic search for Sarah. He’s aided by a looney Bloomingdale’s clerk wonderfully played by comic actor Eugene Levy and his best pal Dean (Jeremy Piven).

Meanwhile, Sarah, who now lives in San Francisco, is having trouble with her New Age flutist boyfriend Lars (John Corbett) and she’s beginning to wonder what might have been had she not left her happiness to fate. Grabbing best friend Eve (Molly Shannon) for comfort, Sarah hightails it back to New York to look for Jonathan.

It becomes a comedy of cross-country errors and near-misses, coincidence after coincidence, piled as high as the debris from a New York City trash collectors’ strike.

We learn somewhere toward the end that Jonathan is a sports producer for ESPN; we already know that Dean writes obits for the New York Times; Lars is a musician; Eve runs a New Age shop in San Francisco and guess what …. neither Hallie nor Sarah seem to have a career outside of standing by their man.

Lotta says:  Serendipity is good fun if you’re willing to put aside all sense of reality. Cusack, whom I never liked that much, has started to win my heart since his performance in  America’s Sweethearts and now this. I think he’s better as the poor schlump i n romantic-comedies than playing wise-cracking hotheards. I am also more impressed with Beckinsale here than I was with her in  Pearl Harbor. She has beauty, great charm and wit. The story is well put together and direction is crisp throughout.

Reviewed 10/23/01