Serendipity (2001)

serendipity 2001

There comes a point in your adult life when exchanging numbers with a stranger is the sensible thing to do. If you’ve spent the evening sharing desserts and skating under the stars, we’ll assume he doesn’t creep you out and that he in fact has a good chance of being normal. Maybe you call him back, maybe you think about it for a few days and then decide you like your boyfriend better, maybe you leave his number stuffed in your purse for another month. Whatever you do, it’s about options. You most certainly won’t brush off the encounter and go on your merry way.

Unless you are Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) and exist in some hyper-adolescent fantasy where life happens only because stars align and pixie dust sprinkles down from the sky. She meets nice guy Jon (John Cusack) when both try to buy the same pair of gloves during the Christmas rush at Bloomingdale’s. After chatting away the evening, he asks for her number, and she, not at all cognizant of how fate works, demurs, arguing that if they are meant to be, they will meet again. He writes his number on a $5 note and she writers hers inside a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera, of course, and they wait for chance to do the rest.

At this point, you’re allowed to scream at the telly or turn to something more realistic, like Love, Actually. It’s maddening to see an otherwise intelligent woman cede control of such a major part of her life. It’s not that she isn’t looking for love or doesn’t care about it but that she clings on to a highly romanticized notion of how it works. An unexpected meeting with someone you get on with during one of the busiest times of the year seems pretty serendipitous to me, but what the hell do I know?

The answer is not a lot. The movie skips forward several years later, and the two strangers are engaged to their respective partners. Sara is ready to tie the knot with Lars (John Corbett), a spacey new age musician, and Jon is about to marry the very beautiful Halley (Bridget Moynahan). Their sudden reluctance to head down the aisle sets off a string of chance encounters, near hits, and just so many coincidences that all subtlety vanishes, taking the magic along with it.

I found it impossible to sympathize with such stubborn people, despite or perhaps because Beckinsale and Cusack consistently pull off sensible characters. Not only did Sara’s initial stunt turn me off, but her continued insistence on leaving things to fate was equally nonsensical, as if its magic hands would swoop down and arrange everything in its proper place. Jon didn’t engender positive feelings either when I saw that he was still clinging onto the memory of a girl who so readily played his heart. Who has time for these games? There are so many better options out there.

Released: 2001
Prod: Peter Abrams, Simon Fields, Robert L. Levy
Dir: Peter Chelsom
Writer: Marc Klein
Cast: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Molly Shannon, Bridget Moynahan, Jeremy Piven, John Corbett, Eugene Levy
Time: 91 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2016