Monday, January 26, 2015

Ridiculous Coincidences

Serendipity
Director: Peter Chelsom
Cast: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Piven, Molly Shannon, John Corbett, Bridget Moynahan, Eugene Levy
Released: October 5, 2001


I didn't see this movie when it was out in theaters, but I did see it on a theater screen on February 13, 2002 when my school screened it for free in the auditorium. My dorm was right next to the building with the auditorium so it was very convenient for me! Other movies I saw there (all free...who doesn't love a free movie?) include Vanilla Sky, Pearl Harbor, Not Another Teen Movie, Training Day, The Mummy Returns, and Legally Blonde. Pretty much any movie that was released in 2001!

It doesn't surprise me that they chose the week of Valentine's Day to screen this movie because it is a romantic comedy, but not as vapid and stupid as most romantic comedies can tend to be. You do need to suspend your belief at times with this film, otherwise you might be rolling your eyes and muttering, "What the...." or "Wait a minute...how is that even possible?" If you just sit back and enjoy the movie, it's very easy to do.

Sara (Beckinsale) and Jonathan (Cusack) bump into each other at Bloomingdales while Christmas shopping and both grab for the last pair of black gloves they both want. Even though they both have significant others, they shamelessly flirt with each other (and Jonathan even confesses his attraction to her...but who can blame him, Kate Beckinsale is a very attractive woman and she has a very adorable British accent) and share an ice cream sundae at a place called Serendipity where Sara explains to him why she loves the name of this ice cream parlor and what serendipity means. This all happens within in the first five minutes of the movie so they established the title of the movie pretty quickly!

They continue their quasi-date by going ice skating at Rockerfeller Center. Sara falls and cuts her arm and they make it seem like blood is gushing out of her arm, but in the next scene when Jonathan is putting a band-aid on her arm, there is no scratch on her at all! They are still flirting with each other and it's obvious they like each other and it's like just break up with your other significant others already! Sara, being into things happening for a reason wants to be sure they are meant to be together and makes him do things only a beautiful woman with an adorable accent could get away with and still have the guy want to pursue her. She does this because when Jonathan was handing her number to her, a gust of wind swept it away and she thought it was a sign they weren't suppose to have any more contact. Instead she comes up with the idea of writing her name and number in a copy of "Love in the Time of Cholera" and tells him she's going to sell it to a random used bookstore tomorrow and if he ever finds it, then it will be a sign. She tells Jonathan to write his name on a five dollar bill and goes to a newsstand to buy something with it and if that bill makes back to her, then it's a sign.

Okay. Let's think about this rationally. I can buy the book being found even though there has to be hundreds of used book stores in New York. Obviously it's a well-known book and there are lots of copies (as we do see in the movie because he checks every copy of it to see if it's the one she had). But how many five dollar bills are in existence and this particular one could easily travel out of the city. Would it be a spoiler to say that both items come back into the movie?

Before they part ways, Sara has one more crazy experiment she wants to try. They go to the Waldorf Astoria where she tells him they will take separate elevators and if they both push the same button and end up on the same floor, then it's a sign they should be together. Why they just don't give each other their numbers and tell them they'll call the other if it doesn't work out with their current relationships, I don't know. So of course we see they both push the same button in their separate elevators (23) even though there are 47 floors. So that would never happen. Let's be real here. That would be really crazy odds for that to ever happen. Except that Jonathan has a father and a kid (dressed in a devil costume even though it's not Halloween....I guess they wanted to symbolize he was a terror?) who gets on the elevator and the kid pushes all the buttons thus making it take forever for Jonathan to reach his destined floor. He does cheat by checking every floor to see if Sara is there. She waits for him for awhile, but eventually, dejectedly leaves.

A year passes and to show time we have a montage of seasons passing, shadows, sun dials, and clocks. Why they just couldn't have a simple "One year later" on a black screen, I don't know. We see Jonathan at a big gathering where he is being toasted for his current engagement. We never see the woman he is next to, just her hand on his shoulder and we are all waiting with bated breath to see if it is Sara...but as the camera slowly pans over, we see it is not. It is Holly (Moynahan) who has nothing to do except to look pretty and tell Jonathan he's been acting distant lately. Jeremy Piven plays his best friend and gives the toast. Even though Jonathan's set to marry Holly in just a few days, he's still thinking about Sara.

Meanwhile, Sara is in San Francisco. Her best friend is played by Molly Shannon and her boyfriend, Lars (Corbett) is some goofy exotic flute player who has posters of himself with open shirts and does cheesy music videos. She is still thinking about Jonathan and decides to go to New York to "see what happens".  I should mention that Lars asked her to marry her and she said yes.

Meanwhile, Jonathan finds a receipt inside the black glove he kept  (Sara has the other) and sees an account number and sees if he can get Sara's information this way. Eugene Levy plays the salesman who works at the store that can help him, but he blackmails him by making him buy $700 worth of stuff so he can get his commission. He starts getting clues on how to contact Sara, but always ends up one step short in which he has to find another way around to get to the next step. But it's all a moot point anyway because....

....the book and the five dollar bill show up! But I already spoiled that for you! Oh and I should also add that there are several scenes where Jonathan and his friend are going somewhere that Sara and her friend are just leaving. Uh-huh. And then there's a scene where Jonathan gets tangled up in a dog's leash and just a few seconds later, the guy and the dog are going around the block...and then Sara gets tangled up in the leash! Oh, movie! So like I said, Jonathan has been checking all the copies of "Love in the Time of Cholera" whenever he walks past a used book store. Holly has noticed this and what is her wedding present to him but that novel! And of course it is THE novel. Awkward! He finally has Sara's full name and her phone number.

Meanwhile, Sara has decided that coming to New York was a mistake and is on the plane to fly back to San Francisco. Molly Shannon has stayed behind to attend a wedding (oh, I forgot to mention that she and Holly are friends....of course they are! They all see each other at the hotel when Jonathan is conveniently out). While waiting for takeoff, Sara buys a pair of headphones and realizes she has Molly's wallet because their looks similar. In an earlier scene, when the two friends are at Serendipity's (because of course), Molly puts the change in her wallet and we see the red ink with Jonathan's name and number on a five dollar bill! Oooh! Sara sees the familiar bill and snatches it from the flight attendant and runs off the plane. She goes to stop the wedding only to find out that it has been called off.

She and Jonathan find each other at the ice skating rink, kiss, get married, and live happily ever after. (Or at least we see they are still together one year later!)

Like I said, you just need to go with the movie to enjoy it because there are too many things that are way too coincidental and would never happen in the real life. But it is a feel-good movie and came out at a time when that's what people wanted most.

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