There was a time when romantic comedies were made for the enjoyment of both sexes. Such classics as Bringing Up Baby, My Man Godfrey, and the Doris Day/Rock Hudson films could enjoyed by men and women alike. Sadly, this all changed in the past few decades. Such films as Pretty Woman, The Bachelor, and The Wedding Planner seem to have been written with the idea that romance is the sole province of women. Fortunately, there have been exceptions. When Harry Met Sally, There's Something About Mary, and Down With Love are movies that either sex can appreciate. Among those exceptions is the 2001 film Serendipity.
Serendipity centres on Jonathan Trager (John Cusack) and Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale, A.K.A. The Second Most Beautiful Woman in the World--I won't mention the first), two people who meet and spend an intense few hours together. They agree to leave things to destiny, Sara placing her name and number in a book and Jonathan on a dollar bill. If Jonathan finds the book or Sara finds the dollar, then they know that they were meant to be together. Years go by and both are in relationships with other people, each on the surface perfectly suited to me. And yet neither Jon nor Sara can shake the memories or the feelings they have for each other.
At the heart of Serendipity lies two interrelated qusestions. One is of whether our lives are simply a chain of random, meaningless events or whether we each have our destinies. The other is whether there is that special someone, a soulmate, waiting for each of us other there. These are sophisticated questions for any recently made comedy, particularly a recently made romantic comedy, but Serendipity handles them quite well. There are some who might find the ending of Serendipity a bit optimistic (I won't reveal it here, but I figure most people familiar with the genre can probably guess how it ends), but, as I see it, there are those of us who are desperately in need of such optimism. After all, as I see it, among the purposes of romantic comedies is that of giving people hope.
Serendipity benefits from a good cast. John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale are both convincing as the starcrossed lovers. Their performances are both genuine and sincere, without being overwrought. Jeremy Piven does well as Jon's somewhat sceptical friend. And Molly Shannon is hilarous as Sara's friend who runs a New Age store, but has total disdain for New Age ideas. Even the actors in bit parts are fairly good. Eugene Levy, wasted in such drek as the American Pie and Like Mike, is put to good use as a much put upon Bloomingdale's salesman. The script is also well done, with a good deal of intelligent dialogue.
Over all I consider Serendipity to be one of the better romantic comedies to come out in the past few years. And it is one of the few which a heterosexual male can watch without feeling embarassed (of course, the fact that Kate Beckinsale is in it makes that a whole lot easier...).
TCM Classic Film Festival 2016 Coverage
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