Cusack and Beckinsale Make It Work9/10
Magic happens, if you let it; and sometimes even fate or destiny-- or whatever you want to call it-- steps in to lend a hand. But when it concerns love, and finding that special person you're going to spend the rest of your life with, should you risk tempting fate with a test of that love or what is seemingly meant to be, or should you just follow your apparent destiny and embrace it? Such are the questions two people must face and answer in the romantic comedy/drama `Serendipity,' directed by Peter Chelsom. Jonathan Trager (John Cusack) is shopping for a gift for his girlfriend, and Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) is looking for something for her boyfriend when they reach for the same pair of gloves on a rack at Bloomingdales. And the wheels of fate are quickly turning. Or are they? Jonathan and Sara proceed to spend the next few hours together, including a romantic interlude skating in New York's Central Park, and there are definite sparks flying between them. For Jonathan, it's a significant emotional experience, and he realizes something has happened, that something has changed in his life; Sara feels the same, but being a true believer in destiny, she needs a sign that this is meant to be before she'll consider pursuing whatever it is that's just happened between them. So she puts it to the test. And for Jonathan, knowing only that her name is Sara, it's the beginning of an odyssey-- a quest-- to find true love with the woman he already knows in his heart of hearts that he wants to share his life with. For Sara, it's the beginning of a search for love, and for that one special person she knows is destined to be her soul mate forever. They both find, however, that the path to pure love is filled with every obstacle the known universe could possibly place in their way. And is the journey worth it? Well, in the end, it all comes down to what fate has predetermined. Or does it?
In the tradition of such films as `Sleepless In Seattle' and `You've Got Mail,' Chelsom has fashioned a truly romantic tale of two people who are absolutely destined to be together, no matter what. And-- as the audience knows early on-- nothing less will be acceptable. Hanks and Ryan may be missing, but the charismatic Cusack and the beguiling Beckinsale more than make up for it, carving out their own niche in the genre with this outing, and Chelsom has just enough of that Nora Ephron touch (including the use of music, matching the perfect song with every situation) to make it work. The chances of things ever happening in real life the way they do in this movie are about twice as remote as winning the lottery, but who cares? This is a heartwarming fable about love-- about the way we `want' love to be-- and it's delivered with an endearing care that makes it emotionally involving, entertaining and a thoroughly satisfying experience. And there's not a whole lot more you can ask of a movie, I think.
Cusack is so likable, and manages to convey the bedevilment of his situation with such facility, that the viewer is unequivocally drawn in from the beginning. You want things to work out for this guy-- and Sara, as well; and, of course, you're pretty confident from the outset they are going to. But along the way they make you feel something; they enable you to share the frustration as well as the elation that comes with discovering love, and perhaps finding that better part of yourself at the same time. And the fact that Cusack makes Jonathan so believable, and someone with whom you can identify, has more than a lot to do with it. It's a quality performance from an actor with the flexibility and range to do just about anything, and who never disappoints.
The other half of the equation for success, of course, belongs to Beckinsale, who is not only beautiful, but a good actor who infuses her character with a touch of mystery and complexity that makes her winsome and interesting. Like Cusack's Jonathan, Sara is someone you can root for; you want to see her get what she wants and what she deserves. This isn't a perfect world we live in, and we all know it; but for Sara and Jonathan you want it to be. There's a chemistry between the two of them, and they make it so easy for you to project your own feelings and desires into their situation, that there's no getting around it. If they win, you win. It's that simple. And even though they take you over some rough spots along the way, it's a fun trip and Beckinsale and Cusack-- Sara and Jonathan-- make it a journey worth taking.
The supporting cast includes Molly Shannon, Jeremy Piven, Bridget Moynahan and Eugene Levy (who is terrific-- and hilarious-- as a sales clerk at Bloomingdales). A handsome film that touches all the right nerves and pushes all the right buttons, `Serendipity' has a gentle sensibility about it that addresses the notions of romance and love that reside within us all. And it's refreshingly presented in a way that is pure and inoffensive; and as such it allows you to open up and embrace something of value without having to apologize for it, and without implying you have to be `hip' to appreciate it. Because it's all about love and sharing love, which is something we can all use a little more of in this world we live in today. And that's the magic of the movies. I rate this one 9/10.