Image Source: Miramax Films

Review: Serendipity (2001) *****

Did you ever have one of those weird, magical nights that felt like they went on forever? Maybe when you were young and only tentatively attached to the relationships in your life. When it felt like maybe you should use your full tank of gas to get out of dodge, leave your apartment behind, live in your car a while–a romantic fantasy of abandon, hopefully with the dreamy guy you’re talking to right now. The kind of night where anything is possible.

In Serendipity, Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack have a magical night together that feels like that, and then they go about their lives. Whereas romances built on Some Magical Day like Before Sunrise focus exclusively on that Magical Day itself, Serendipity takes a step back and lets time move on within the film. Our hero and heroine are separated for the remainder of Serendipity, aside from a beautifully aesthetic final moment.

Serendipity is conceptually rooted than many other slightly more grounded romcoms. Most substantial conversations are built around the question of whether fate and true love exist. There are a few different takes on this question. We see Molly Shannon selling something she considers childish New Age bullshit, and John Corbett playing American Yanni is playing with some kind of spiritual devotion to his vision of music. Corbett is especially selfish in his interaction with this Hand of God. He expects that *he* is God, to some degree, and so he easily overlooks Beckinsale’s needs until she’s no longer serving his.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Piven has lost his reason for hope, having divorced the wife he always argued with (but only when nobody was looking). Piven fears that forgetting about true love meant fate forgot about them. He wants his best-queer-friend Cusak to cling to his passion for life–for real love. (I give a sentence of this review in honor of Cusack’s character’s jilted fiancee, who was given about as much consideration in the film itself.)

Piven and Cusack’s eagerness to chase down even the smallest hint of a clue in order to find Beckinsale shouldn’t work, but it does. At no point does Serendipity leave us worried things won’t work out. Fate has this in hand. Even a fluttering Eugene Levy is only a quick stumble on a smooth road toward reunion, with our hero and heroine dancing just out of reach from one another like a New York Christmas ballet.

Is there any sort of long-term future for Beckinsale and Cusack? They don’t really know each other, and Cusack imbues this character with the same caustic neuroticism as many of his roles. But that question is really beside the point. The question of the movie is whether these two can stop being so worried about their busy thirty-something lives in order to trust fate again, and find their true love, and they do. Under the snow, under the stars, with Cassiopeia’s dress over her head.

(Image Source: Miramax Films)

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