Serendipity

on October 05, 2001 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   As predictable as romantic comedies go, "Serendipity" is nonetheless a fun ride, mostly because the actors give it their all. The always reliable John Cusack ("Being John Malkovich") plays Jonathan Trager who, while Christmas shopping for his girlfriend, meets up with Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale), also shopping for her significant other. They spend some time together and make a connection, but just as Jonathan reaches for the slip of paper with her phone number on it, it blows away. As Sara believes in serendipity, she decides to let fate take its course and has them each write their names on specific objects and send those objects out into the world. If each finds the other's name, she says, then they are meant to be together. Flash forward a few years later, with the pair on the verge of committing to new mates but unable to forget each other. That's when the story clicks in, as Jonathan, accompanied by his best friend Dean (Jeremy Piven), decides to track Sara down.

   "Serendipity" is, of course, an utterly preordained movie in terms of whether the pair will get together, but while contrived, it never feels calculated. Director Peter Chelsom ("Hear My Song") has a pleasingly light touch, and he orchestrates the coincidences and little moments when Jonathan and Sara nearly meet with style and panache. They're believable and suspenseful in equal measure.

   Cusack and Beckinsale throw themselves into their roles, giving conviction to characters who would have been cardboard cutouts in another movie, and they're ably aided by a strong supporting cast, including Piven, who is a real-life chum of Cusack's, and Eugene Levy, who nearly steals the show as an anal store clerk.

   Nicely showcasing the beauty of New York, "Serendipity" is a likeable movie that works far better than it should. It's a charming confection. Starring John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale and Jeremy Piven. Directed by Peter Chelsom. Written by Marc Klein. Produced by Simon Fields, Peter Abrams and Robert L. Levy. A Miramax release. Comedy/Drama. Rated PG-13 for a scene of sexuality, and for brief language. Running time: 86 min

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