×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Serendipity

A romantic bauble set in an impossibly glamorous New York City that seems even more like a fantasyland in the current context, "Serendipity" will serve as an excellent gauge of any viewer's tolerance level for schmaltzy contrivance and manipulation. This unabashed "chicks' movie" is set for domestic release Oct. 5.

With:
Jonathan Trager - John Cusack Sara Thomas - Kate Beckinsale Eve - Molly Shannon Dean Kansky - Jeremy Piven Lars Hammond - John Corbett Halley Buchanan - Bridget Moynahan Bloomingdale's Salesman - Eugene Levy

A romantic bauble set in an impossibly glamorous New York City that seems even more like a fantasyland in the current context, “Serendipity” will serve as an excellent gauge of any viewer’s tolerance level for schmaltzy contrivance and manipulation. Diverting on the most superficial planes of physical attractiveness, wish fulfillment and happy ever-aftering, Peter Chelsom’s attempt at a rebound from “Town & Country” reps a sort of repackaging of “Sleepless in Seattle” in fancy new wrapping. With a couple of quick shots of the World Trade Center reportedly on the way out after the Toronto premiere, Miramax should expect serviceable returns from this unabashed “chicks’ movie” upon domestic release Oct. 5.

Totally devoted to the notion that there is One Special Someone out there for everyone, the first produced screenplay by Marc Klein also requires that lightning strike not once but twice in the case of the central couple, who tempt fate by playing a silly game on the night of their first meeting that makes the odds of their ever finding one another again very remote.

Popular on Variety

The sentiments at the heart of the picture are highly romantic ones that many people can buy into, but the massive pile of hasty decisions, close calls, mad dashes and chance encounters accumulate into a mountain of artifice that will (at least) roll the eyes or (at most) gag anyone with a dominant sense of reason.

To pic’s credit, opening “meet cute” between the principals is engaging and instantly establishes an obstacles-be-damned rooting interest in them. After good-naturedly tussling over the last pair of black cashmere gloves at Bloomingdale’s, an attractive young fellow in his mid-30s and a mid-20s British beauty spend 20 minutes of screen time realizing they are meant for each other while grabbing a bite at the eponymous restaurant, ice skating in Central Park and bantering in a lightheartedly clever manner.

Entirely too attached to a belief in “fortunate accidents,” the young lady, who insists until the last minute that they don’t exchange names, tempts fate once too often by suggesting that they each get on separate elevators at the Waldorf-Astoria: If they get off on the same floor, it means they’re destined for one another; if not, c’est la vie.

Well, they both head for the top floor but she catches the express while he gets stuck on the local, so they just miss each other.

A few years later, Jonathan (John Cusack) is within days of marrying another dark-haired honey, Halley (Bridget Moynahan); while out in San Francisco, Sara (Kate Beckinsale) is having the question popped to her by laughably New Agey pop star Lars (John Corbett). Despite all the time that’s passed, Jonathan still can’t get over the girl who got away and, with the help of nebbishy best buddy Dean (Jeremy Piven), launches into a desperate last-minute search for his inamorata that involves some very comical antics as he tries to get her name from an officious Bloomingdale’s clerk (Eugene Levy).

At the same time, Sara tells Lars she needs a “break” and jets off to Gotham with her best friend Eve (Molly Shannon) with the secret agenda of tracking down Jonathan before making up her mind about Lars. At the Waldorf, Eve bumps into Halley, an old college friend (natch) who impulsively invites her to her wedding. On the eve of the latter event, credulity is stretched well past the breaking point as Jonathan and Dean, having established Sara’s whereabouts, fly to San Francisco, only to mistake Kate’s sister for the woman they’re looking for and give up the game for good.

It would be spoiling everything and, given the tale’s inevitability, nothing at all to reveal what happens once Jonathan and Dean wearily return to Manhattan. As a fairy tale, pic is sufficiently fanciful and sprightly to satisfy the sort of easily seduced audience for which it is intended. But it is so calculated, and so familiar in its narrative trappings, character types and gentrified coziness, that there is a great deal that a reasonably seasoned – and certainly a sophisticated – audience would choose to resist.

As far as Chelsom is concerned, at least this plays, which “Town & Country” emphatically did not. Yet pic is all but drained of the distinctive and unusual colorings that graced “Hear My Song” and especially “Funny Bones.”

“Serendipity” does deliver an ultra-romanticized vision of a New York aglow with glorious urban spaces, beautiful people and the warm potential of eternal love. Cusack and Beckinsale spark well in the opening reel and remain nothing short of energetic and appealing the rest of the time. But Piven’s comic relief and Shannon’s best friend are far too on-the-money sitcommy. Tech contributions are tops, with Toronto shooting having seamlessly been worked into Gotham locationing.

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Galas), Sept. 13, 2001. Running time: 90 MIN.

Serendipity

Production: A Miramax release of a Tapestry Films production in association with Simon Fields Prods. Produced by Fields, Peter Abrams, Robert L. Levy. Executive producers, Bob Osher, Julie Goldstein, Amy Slotnick. Co-producers, Amy Kaufman, Andrew Panay. Co-executive producer, Robbie Brenner. Directed by Peter Chelsom. Screenplay, Marc Klein.

Crew: Camera (Deluxe color), John De Borman; editor, Christopher Greenbury; music, Alan Silvestri; music supervisor, Laura Ziffren; production designer, Caroline Hanania; art directors, Tom Warren (N.Y.), Andrew Stearn (Toronto); set decorators, Catherine Davis (N.Y.), Carol Lavoie (Toronto); costume designers, Marie-Sylvie Deveau, Mary Claire Hannon; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Tod A. Maitland; supervising sound editor, Paul Clay; assistant director, Vincent Lascoumes; casting, Mary Gail Artz, Barbara Cohen, Billy Hopkins, Suzanne Smith, Kerry Barden.

With: Jonathan Trager - John Cusack Sara Thomas - Kate Beckinsale Eve - Molly Shannon Dean Kansky - Jeremy Piven Lars Hammond - John Corbett Halley Buchanan - Bridget Moynahan Bloomingdale's Salesman - Eugene Levy

More Film

  • Lionsgate Developing 'Memetic' Apocalyptic Horror Movie

    Film News Roundup: Lionsgate Developing 'Memetic' Apocalyptic Horror Movie

    In today’s film news roundup, Lionsgate is developing graphic novel “Memetic” as a feature, the latest Laura Ziskin Prize is announced and Firelight Media creates a fund for nonfiction filmmakers of color at the mid-career mark. PROJECT LAUNCHES Lionsgate is in final negotiations for motion picture rights to the apocalyptic horror graphic novel “Memetic” for [...]

  • Sylvie's Love Review

    'Sylvie's Love': Film Review

    Sultry music swells as the camera swoons over a young couple in a tender nighttime embrace. The 1950s residential New York City street is carefully rain-slicked and lined with shiny classic cars: an obvious stage set. Gene Kelly might just have swung on that lamppost; Doris Day might lean out of an upstairs window to sigh [...]

  • Martin Scorsese Irishman BTS

    Martin Scorsese's Body of Work Extends Far Beyond Male-Centric Mafia Movies

    Actors sometimes complain about being typecast, but it’s a fact of life for anyone in entertainment. John Ford is usually labeled a director of Westerns, despite “The Grapes of Wrath” and  “Mister Roberts.” David Lean is known for his epics, but he also directed “Brief Encounter” and “Summertime.” Vincente Minnelli? The director of musicals, overlooking [...]

  • Oscars Oscar Academy Awards Placeholder

    Will Oscar Campaigning Turn to Mudslinging?

    On March 5, 1963, Army Archerd wrote in Variety: “There’s been a not-so-subtle campaign pyramiding since Oscar nominations that Omar Sharif is an ex-Egyptian soldier who fought in the Israeli War. Forget it: Omar sez: ‘I never fought in any army.’” Archerd also denied the rumor that Sharif was Muslim. Two big takeaways: 1. Mudslinging [...]

  • Blake Lively

    Why Blake Lively Isn't Trying to Be the 'Female James Bond' in 'The Rhythm Section'

    “The Rhythm Section,” Reed Morano’s new espionage thriller about a female assassin who sets out to avenge her family’s untimely death, is not a female-led approximation of a “James Bond” film. Though Barbara Broccoli, the magnate producer whose family has been solely responsible for the franchise, is producing the movie, “The Rhythm Section” is decidedly not [...]

  • Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Robert Lopez. Kristen Anderson-Lopez,

    Kristen Anderson-Lopez Talks Responsibility, Representation in 'Frozen 2' and the Biz

    Gender parity isn’t an issue in Oscar-winning songwriting-composer Kristen Anderson-Lopez’s house, what with her longstanding collaboration with husband Bobby Lopez, but at the Oscars luncheon on Monday, it was a different story. “There were 13 female directors represented in the shorts and documentary fields,” Anderson-Lopez notes, adding, “but how do we get from there to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content