I can't remember the last time I paid money to see a romantic comedy at the cinema but I'm glad I paid for this one. Serendipity has the usual boy-meets-loses-gets-girl plot line but with Peter Chelsom's clever direction and some outstanding performances from the cast, this one stands out from the crowd.
Do you believe in fate and destiny? Sara Thomas does, and when she accidentally runs into Jonathan Trager in a New York department store in 1990, and subsequently has an amazing evening with the stranger. Jonathan too is smitten and the two of them decide to leave their second meeting up to fate. Knowing only each other's first names, Jonathan writes his name and number on a five dollar bill and spends it, Sara writes hers inside a book and takes it to a second-hand bookstore. Ten or so years later and about to go through with their separate nuptials, Jonathan and Sara have attacks of cold feet on either side of the country and go about seeking out the other to find out 'What if?'. But is searching cheating fate?
The film progresses through a series of comedic near-misses and coincidences. It's the little clues that draw you right into the story as well as the obvious inevitability that the two will meet up again before the 90 minutes is up. We just want to know HOW!
Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack's chemistry is apparent from the word go. From the first take John and Kate gelled, commented Kate in a press conference, and it was this that made working on this film so easy. "And we were only on screen together for a couple of scenes anyway".
She jokes, they hit it off from their first meeting in London when John was working on High Fidelity. "When I met John
I was more pregnant than you can be. I had these giant boobs and blonde hair - I think that's what he liked!"
More than the chemistry between the two leads, it's the banter between Jonathan and his best mate Dean, played brilliantly by Cusack's real-life buddy, Jeremy Piven, that really makes Serendipity. The two have obviously spent a lot of time together - their machine-gun conversations were too fluid to be purely acting.
Peter Chelsom has let the actors do their own thing on this movie. The improvised scenes are notably the best, particularly any scene starring Eugene Levy as the Bloomingdale's shop assistant.
So magically fate intervenes and the story is wrapped up nicely, that isn't to say that it's banal or predictable. There are the odd pleasant surprises. Serendipity is most definitely the perfect Christmas movie.