85 minutes | Rated: PG-13
Opened: Friday, October 5, 2001
Directed by Peter Chelsom
Starring John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Piven, Molly Shannon, Eugene Levy, Bridget Moynahan, John Corbett, Leo Fitzpatrick
Cameo: Buck Henry
SMALL SCREEN SHRINKAGE: 0%|
LETTERBOX: COULDN'T HURT
This film will survive completely intact to the small screen. In fact, it might even be better because you can cuddle up on your couch with someone while watching it.
VIDEO RELEASE: 04.09.2002
Some of the bonus materials are hidden on this disc. If you can't find something, try clicking on the snowflakes. Chelsom's commentary takes some time to become interesting, but it does have lots of keen observations about John Cusack, about Alan Silvestri's score, and about the fact that the main characters' significant others are human and appealing as opposed to ill-suited cartoons characters. He also talks about re-shooting the three opening scenes at the end of the production when his stars had developed more natural chemistry. When you see the deleted scenes, you'll be glad he did it.|
OTHER NOTABLE BONUS MATERIAL
Chelsom's production diary is an interesting read in that it was clearly written at the time and appears unedited - typos and all.
1.85:1 ratio; 5.1 Dolby
DUBS: English, Spanish
DVD RATING: ***
Cusack, Beckinsale shine in fun, fate-fueled romantic comedy about love-struck strangers searching Manhattan for each other
Last year John Cusack -- modern Hollywood's most endearing Everyman -- starred in "High Fidelity," a great guy movie with a romantic comedy bent that made it the year's best date movie too.
This year's front runner for the same honor is a fate-fueled, starry-eyed chick flick entitled "Serendipity" -- also starring John Cusack, which may help convince otherwise reluctant boyfriends and husbands to see this sweet, cuddly charmer. They're guaranteed to enjoy it if they give it half a chance.
Cusack plays an ESPN segment director who meets the girl of his dreams (British girl-next-door Kate Beckinsale) in a Christmas shopping showdown over the last pair of black cashmere gloves at Bloomingdale's. Instantly smitten, they spend the day together, at one point ice skating in Central Park and playing the getting-to-know-you game of favorites: "Favorite New York moment?" Beckinsale asks. "This one's climbing the charts," Cusack grins winningly.
But Beckinsale is a big believer in kismet, so when they're frequented by a series of wild coincidences all day long, she decides to leave their potential amour in the hands of destiny. She makes him write his phone number on a five-dollar bill, then spends it at a newsstand. She in turn puts her digits in a front page of a book she's reading and sells it to a used bookstore. If they're meant to be together, she says with a twinkle in her eye, his bill or her book will find its way to the other person.
Cusack isn't satisfied with this prospect at all, so she offers one concession -- each of them takes a glove from the pair Cusack finally won in their battle at Bloomie's -- and one more game: They each ride an elevator at the Waldorf Astoria. If they get off on the same floor, it's meant to be.
By the time Cusack is done searching that hotel floor by floor, the movie's romantic chemistry has become so irresistible that you'll be breathless hoping he finds her.
Several years later -- dang it! -- Cusack is engaged to a Manhattan society sweetie (Bridget Moyhahan) but still habitually stopping in used bookstores. Beckinsale has become a shrink in San Francisco, and while she's lost all her faith in fate, she has fallen in love with a New Age Jazz luminary ("Sex In the City's" John Corbett doing a hilarious Kenny G. send-up). Both on the verge of marriage, cold feet set in, sending them on a desperate last-ditch search for each other.
Director Peter Chisholm ("The Mighty," "Town & Country") has the perfect touch for the frustratingly funny near-misses that drive the rest of this ambrosial romance. Charging through Manhattan, dragging their best friends (comic relief specialists Jeremy Piven and Molly Shannon) along for moral support, Cusack and Beckinsale pet the same dog only a block apart. She unknowingly bumps into his film crew shooting pick-up footage at a golf driving range where he did a story the day before -- and where an arrant ball from his fiancée's father knocks Shannon on the noggin.
As it turns out, Shannon and the fiancée are childhood friends, which leads to an invitation to Cusack's wedding -- at the Waldorf, no less. Of course Beckinsale doesn't realize who the groom is and Shannon has never met him.
Meanwhile, Cusack discovers he has the receipt for the gloves -- with Beckinsale's Bloomingdale account number on it. He dashes to the store to accost a salesclerk (Eugene Levy) trying to glean her name and number. Even if it's out of date, it would be a lead. Behind on his commissions, the clerk agrees to help only after Cusack buys a $700 velvet suit.
The will-they-ever-meet concept behind "Serendipity" may not be all that original, but this picture isn't a "Sleepless In Seattle"-style sickeningly saccharine confection. The relentlessly romantic sweetness here has a refreshing touch of sardonic humor running through it, and its significant-other characters are not clearly incompatible cardboard cutouts from central casting. Beckinsale's intended, for example, is an incredibly byronic, unselfish guy who abandons his concert tour to surprise her in New York (not knowing why she's there) just because he misses her. And Cusack explains to Piven that his fiancée is like "The Godfather Part II" -- just as good as the original, but just not the same.
As for the leads, Cusack sticks to his appealing, trademarked way of personifying the easy going id of the American male -- which is fine because he's great at it -- and Beckinsale, a versatile actress now known best for "Pearl Harbor," plays the kind of dreamy, instantly delightfully darling that put her on the map in British pictures like "Cold Comfort Farm" and "Shooting Fish."
"Serendipity's" only real downfall is that it's so focused on closing the circle of cute coincidence that it barrels right past an obvious, logical and perfectly romantic ending to conclude five minutes later in a way that's serviceable and winsome, but exasperatingly over-scripted to conform to the formula.