f you're one of those people who sat down to watch Serendipity
and wondered how it's all going to end, then you need to slip back under the
rock. Serendipity is essentially a Chick Flick, of which there are two
subgenres -- those made exclusively for women and those made for women to drag
their boyfriend or significant other to. Peter Chelsom's Serendipity
falls under the second category. The most notable convention of a Chick Flick is
sex without skin -- meaning sexual relations without nudity. Essentially PG or
PG-13 films, since as we all know (wink wink) women don't equate
"love" with "gratuitous nudity." Which his too bad, but
that's another review.
Serendipity stars John Cusack as Jonathan and
British export Kate Beckinsale as Sara, two strangers who meet by accident in a
department store one Christmas night while shopping for their significant
others. They immediately sense chemistry and after a night of talking and
romancing, decide to let fate determine rather they should see each other again.
(Well, actually, it's the romantic-minded Sara who decides to let fate take its
course. Gee, aren't women romantic? Shucks.) So Jonathan writes his name and
phone number on a $5 dollar bill and Sara does likewise to the inside jacket of
a book, and casts both items into the world.
Her theory is this: If either item
should come back to them sometime in the future it means they're destined to be
with each other and only then should they attempt a love affair. Years go by and
the two have gone on with their lives -- he in New York, she in San Francisco.
Not only that, but they're both engaged to be married. As the days toward their
individual relationship approaches the point of no return (re: marriage), they
both decide to set off in search of one another one last time...
If you don't know how Serendipity is going to end,
then it's time to take your pills. If there's one question that remains to be
discovered in Serendipity, it's not if they'll find each other
(for God's sake, it's a Chick Flick, of course they're going to find each
other!) but how entertaining their individual searches for each other will be.
Another question is this: how many times can director Peter Chelsom and writer
Marc Klein pull the ol "they're so close to finding each other if only
they'll look in this direction and spot each other" and get away with it.
The filmmakers used this gimmick sparingly, and thank God, because I
whole-heartedly despise the gimmick. (If you're interested, I counted only
As to the search, which takes up most of the movie's short
running length, I can safely say that it's pretty entertaining. Of course, both
lovelorn soulmates have best friends to help them in the search. Cusack has Dean
(Jeremy Piven) and Sara has Eve (Molly Shannon, of TV's "SNL"). Both
Dean and Eve are funny and quirky enough to make their respective searching
scenes funny. This is very important, as the best friend is always the comic
foil to the main character's straight man, and it's up to the best friend to
provide most of the movie's laughs. It's expected, it's very much needed, and Serendipity
has two good role players in Piven and Shannon.
Adding to the cast is Eugene Levy, who plays a strict
Bloomingdale's counter salesman who takes over the 3 quick scenes that he's in.
The rest of the cast, including Bridget Moynahan as Halley, Jonathan's fiancé,
and John Corbett as Lars, Sara's Yanni-like fiancé, does fine in their roles,
although they're much too peripheral to make any emotional impact on the
audience. Incidentally, the two main Jonathan and Sarah actually only interact
for about 15 minutes of the entire film, 10 minutes in the beginning and 5 more
in the end. Now you know why it's imperative the movie have two good sidekicks
in Piven and Shannon.
While watching Serendipity it occurred to me that
this is the kind of movie only women who are hopeless romantics could love. Why?
Because not only do Jonathan and Sara act impulsively, but they also treat their
respective fiancés like dirt. Even as he's doing wedding rehearsals with Halley
and her family, Jonathan is running around town trying to find out Sara's last
name and contact her. The same is true for Sara. She's flying to New York with
Eve to locate Jonathan even after accepting Lars' proposal, unceremoniously
leaving him in San Francisco.
If not for the inherent likeability of Kate
Beckinsale and John Cusack, an audience could have found a lot of qualities not
to like in our leads. Fortunately, Serendipity chose its lead players
correctly. Beckinsale is cute and shines and it's quite impossible to dislike
her. Equally, Cusack is so manic and desperate in his search for Sara that
there's no time to hate what his character is doing to his fiancé, who from all
accounts is very undeserving of his treatment of her.
Serendipity is a harmless little film. It's a Chick
Flick to be sure, and only its targeted female audience can ignore the
"ditch my fiancé at the church to search for a woman I haven't seen in 7
years" plot and just concentrate on the "Gee, they're looking for
their soulmate, isn't it romantic?" aspect of the film.