Serendipity


Directed by: Peter Chelsom
Written by:Marc Klein
Starring: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Piven, Molly Shannon, Eugene Levy
Released: January 17, 2002
Grade: B+

serendipity, n.  The ability to make fortunate discoveries by accident.

destiny, n.  The power that is believed to determine the course of events.

Why is it that horoscopes are published in every leading newspaper and magazine?  Easily mocked, they entice our curiosity in that perhaps our fate is, to an extent, predetermined.  In terms of love, is there one person we’re absolutely destined to be with?  Many have lost a night’s sleep trying to solve this mystery.

In a New York department store, Jonathan (Cusack) and Sara (Beckinsale) meet after they simultaneously snatch the final pair of black mittens from a counter display.  They talk, go for ice-cream, and skate together on Central Park’s Wollman Rink.  After the night of their lives, Sara reaches to give Jonathan her phone number on a small piece of paper but a sudden wind blows it from her hand and into the mist.

A strong believer in fate, Sara takes this to be a sign.  Prepared to let destiny decide, she makes Jonathan write his number on a $5 bill which she promptly uses to buy mints at a newspaper stand.  For Jonathan, she writes her name and number in a book, Love In The Time Of Cholera, and vows to sell it the following day to a used book store.  If either finds the object with their respective phone numbers, it’s surely meant to be.

Years of unsuccessful searching pass and Jonathan and Sara have finally moved on with their lives.  Both are engaged to be wed but on the verge of taking life’s ultimate commitment, memories and feelings of a single night long ago resurface.  With friend Dean (Piven), Jonathan revives his quest by searching every used book store in New York and by “chance” comes across a valuable clue - the receipt from the purchase of the mittens listing Sara’s credit card number.  Sara now lives in San Francisco but takes friend Eve (Shannon) on a spur-of-the-moment trip to New York to see if the same magic from all those years ago will reunite her with true love.

From a realism perspective, the film is difficult to swallow as the coincidences are one too many.  Chicago Sun Times’ critic Roger Ebert described it best when he said “that fate is not merely knocking on the door, it has entered with a SWAT team and is banging their heads together and administering poppers.”  Still, you can’t take a film like Serendipity too seriously.  It’s designed to give people cheerful hope in their own romantic conquests with the thought that two people can be perfect for each other.

Cult star John Cusack’s (High Fidelity) passionate personality makes him ideal for this role.  English starlet Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbor) makes a worthy “soul mate” but can’t match Cusack’s humour.  Jeremy Piven is one of those actors who always supports but never leads - his face will be familiar but few will know his name.  His recent credits include Black Hawk Down, Rush Hour 2, The Family Man, Kiss The Girls, Grosse Pointe Blank and Heat.  In Serendipity, Piven shares some hilariously insightful scenes with Cusack highlighted by a moment the two share together on a plane.

So, do we control our own destiny or does our destiny control us?  Haven’t you ever had one of those days where everything goes amazingly perfect or one of those days where everything goes horrendously wrong?  Could it be more than just a coincidence?  That fact that I’ll never know the answer makes it all the more fun to think about.