Serendipity

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The ViewQueenstown Review

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Review byMatthew Turner14/11/2001

Two out of five stars
Running time: 90 mins

Serendipity, as Kate Beckinsale’s character Sarah informs us early on in the movie, just in case any of us were confused, means "a fortunate accident", say where you bump into your future husband while out Christmas shopping and then go on to spend a perfect evening together. That sort of accident.

The only problem is that Sarah and Jonathan, the rather nice chap she’s just met (John Cusack) are both already in relationships, so Sarah, being a huge believer in fate and all that sort of thing, scribbles her number down in a book and promises to sell it to a used book store the next day, so that if they’re meant to be together, he’ll have to find it.

Just to be sure, she also writes his number on a five dollar bill, declaring that if the money finds its way back to her, then that will be Fate. Except that she’s not really quite so silly as to throw it all away on a whim of Fate so instead she pushes him into an elevator and tells him to pick a number, and if they both get out on the same floor, then… well, you get the idea.

Naturally, it all goes horribly wrong and they spend the next five years apart, always thinking about each other, despite being engaged to other people.

Basically, it’s Sleepless In Seattle all over again, with the film striving desperately to keep its two leads apart until the end, so you get lots of those ‘she arrives in a taxi just as he leaves’-type scenes.

Ultimately the film just tries far too hard. It has a splendidly romantic central premise (that "life is a master plan to lead you to your soulmate") but lacks the heart to carry it off.

Coincidence can work brilliantly when handled correctly, but here it’s overdone to the point of ridiculousness – the sort of film where not only do both the book and the five dollars make a reappearance, but it also turns out that Jonathan’s fiancée Bridget Moynahan is an old classmate of Sarah’s best friend.

The majority of the cast try very hard to make it work (to be honest, it looks as if Cusack’s heart isn’t really in it), particularly Molly Shannon and Jeremy Piven as the couple’s respective best friends – Piven in particular seems to be making a career of playing Cusack’s best friend, having done the same thing in Grosse Pointe Blank.

It’s telling that the funniest moments of the film are provided by the support cast - there’s also an entirely gratuitous, yet not unwelcome cameo from Eugene Levy (American Pie 1 & 2) as an officious store clerk (probably the funniest bit of the film) and John Corbett (from Sex and the City) has fun playing Sarah’s new-age rocker fiancé Lars.

Ultimately, this is just about watchable thanks to its two leads and it is at least mercifully short, but you can’t help feeling it could have been a much better film. Disappointing.

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Content updated: 14/12/2017 13:36

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