Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:31 - Released 10/5/01

I suppose outright predictability is something that has to be expected from a feelgood romance. Peter Chelsom's Serendipity, a lighthearted tale about two lovers who decide to leave their future in the hands of fate, does not exactly practice what it preaches, following a tried and true formula very much guided by human hands. But at least Chelsom is getting better at script evaluation; his two most recent films, The Mighty and Town & Country, were deeply flawed before they left the page. Despite the fact that one can see its outcome an hour away, this movie, written by freshman Marc Klein, is an enjoyable romp with good performances by co-stars John Cusack and Pearl Harbor star Kate Beckinsale, and equally good turns by a small supporting cast.

Featuring a standard Cusack story (boy meets, loves, and loses girl in first half hour, boy obsesses about girl for rest of movie), Serendipity takes place largely in pre-September 11 New York City, where ESPN producer Jonathan Trager (Cusack) and aspiring psychologist Sara Thomas (Beckinsale) first bump into each other at Bloomingdale's while trying to buy the same pair of cashmere gloves for a Christmas present. They spend the afternoon together walking, talking, and skating in Central Park, and have the best time of their lives, but have to admit they are both currently attached. Refusing to give him her last name, Sara (who strongly believes in destiny) decides to try an experiment. She writes her name and number in a book and donates it to a used bookstore, and instructs Jonathan to write his name and number on the back of a $5 bill. If she ever sees the bill again, or if he runs across the book, then they'll know they're meant to be together. So that's it; they say goodbye and part ways. And they each take one glove.

Cut to seven years later. Having long since given up finding each other (Sara has subsequently moved to San Francisco), the two are both about to be married to other people. Jonathan's wedding to Hallie (Bridget Moynahan) is scheduled for tomorrow, in fact, and Sara's marriage to self-absorbed musician Lars (Northern Exposure's John Corbett) is not far off. But both of them are getting cold feet and remembering the love they let slip away. With the aid of his best friend, NY Times obituary writer Dean (Jeremy Piven), Jonathan decides to give fate a hand, beginning a desperate, 11th-hour search for the lady he only knows as Sara. Unbeknownst to him, Sara, with the help of her friend Eve (Molly Shannon), does the same.

In a way, this film defies critique—if you like this type of movie, you'll like it; if you don't, you won't. It helps to have competent actors, since without them it could quickly turn into a cloying treatise on love at first sight. But Cusack and Beckinsale make all the difference, and what results is a reasonably whimsical date movie. But be careful: if you make this your first date, you may end up going home with nothing but a glove. ****

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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