' ' Cinema Romantico: My Great Movies: Serendipity

Monday, November 29, 2010

My Great Movies: Serendipity

"If you don't believe in destiny then take what you're given." - Jenny Lewis, "My Pet Snakes"

Don't sigh. Don't roll your eyes. You! All the way in back! Don't try and sneak out! I want to set the record straight. I want to conclusively clarify the reasons for my All Time #1 Guilty Pleasure Movie. I want to put to rest once and for all why I cherish "Serendipity" so and why I so adamantly believe it is a romantic comedy so classic it lays waste to that humorless flimflam "The Lady Eve" with Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck (film historians now have permission to shoot me).

Of course, to present my case it really does no good to discuss the plot. It does no good to tell you that one fairytale December evening in New York City Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) Meet Cute via the whimsy of Christmas shopping which, through a most serendipitous occurrence at a cafe called Serendipity, will prompt the duo to experience snowfall-infused romance beneath the brightly lit skyscrapers of Manhattan which leads to Sara writing down her phone number on a scrap of paper only to watch that scrap of paper blow away in the cold wind an instant before Jonathan was about to take it which leads to Sara claiming "the universe is telling us to back off" which leads to her leading him on a karmatic obstacle course through the lobby of the Waldorf which leads to Sara deciding they are not meant to be together which leads to several years in the future where both Jonathan and Sara are facing impending marriages and only now begin to realize that perhaps they really were meant to be together which leads to a calamitous chase through the Big Apple with Jonathan's wedding hovering right there on the horizon. So if it wouldn't do any good for me to tell you all that what do I tell you to convince you of my requited amore with "Serendipity"?

How about if I explain why I finally went against my principles and joined Facebook? Because I had spent 48 hours in the company of friends insisting I join Facebook and then the very next day learned that the actual, real life Tift Merritt had sent a comment to me via Facebook - I say again, SHE sent a comment to ME - even though it was really only to someone she thought was me (long story) regarding the blog post I had made about her Lincoln Hall show and, thus, I took this as an obvious sign from the universe and immediately signed up for Facebook.

How about if I explain that my formative years in the 90's in the visual arts realm were shaped primarily by the movie "Last of the Mohicans", the TV show "Seinfeld" and Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace in "Pulp Fiction" and then explain how Daniel Day Lewis (star of "Last of the Mohicans") and Jerry Seinfeld and Uma Thurman all share the same birthday - April 29.

How about if I explain my first trip to New York City? How my friend and fellow Springsteen disciple Rory tried to convince me one summer evening to attend the final show of Bruce & The E Street Band's Reunion Tour on July 1, 2000 at Madison Square Garden and how I was reluctant because I'd already seen him three times on that tour and I'd have to drop a ton of money to do it but the next day in my car heard the Sarah McLachlan song "I Will Remember You" (a song I don't even like) and how the line "Don't let your life pass you by" was obviously a sign telling me I had to go to New York City to see Bruce and so I told Rory that, yes, I'd go and how a month or so later when I was driving to his house from where his aunt would ferry us to the airport for the plane ride to NYC "I Will Remember You" came on the radio (I swear to God) which all by itself would have been a sign of serious serendipaciousness except the song that immediately followed "I Will Remember You" (honestly - I'm not making this up) was "Born In The U.S.A."

There are people who would see all these things as mere coincidences and these are people whose brainwaves I do not and will not ever understand and, well, that's why I love "Serendipity"!

"Destiny, I'm hip to your persuasion, your solid reputation." - Kylie Minogue, Rippin' Up The Disco

I love it so much. I love it so much in spite of all the flaws everyone feels the need to point out all the time. I love "Serendipity" even though....

I have no idea where Jonathan gets the marker from in the middle of Central Park at night when he draws the "constellation" on Sara's arm.

I have no idea how at the end Sara has apparently managed to toss a Bloomingdales glove from, what, 30 feet away into the wind and snow and somehow have it flutter down like a heavenly butterfly directly above where Jonathan is laying.

I hate, hate, HATE the moment when Sara's fiancé Lars (John Corbett) says "How does Bora Bora sound?" for their honeymoon and she says "Very sexy sexy." How did Kate Beckinsale say that line? Was she drunk?

I hate, hate, HATE the lesbian couple jokes at the end between Beckinsale and her best friend Eve (Molly Shannon). Complete, utter, awful crap. Cringe every time I see it.

I can't stand Molly Shannon. In general. I don't think she's funny, I don't think she can pull off dramatic roles, she just doesn't work for me. Not in anything. I'm sure she's a very nice person in real life but onscreen it's always a no go.

I hate, hate, HATE that when you see the golf driving range in the middle of Manhattan for the first time you think to yourself "Well, someone's getting hit with a golf ball - probably Molly Shannon" and then a little while later Molly Shannon gets hit with a golf ball.

I refuse to believe the character of Sara would ever end up with someone like Lars. He's a self-involved douche who doubles as a New Age flutist. New Age! Sara would never ever groove to New Age. Are you kidding me?! (Sara Thomas's Favorite Album Of All Time: "All Over The Place", The Bangles. And, by the way, don't debate this. No one is more qualified to know this than me.)

I hate, hate, HATE how they use the "misunderstanding" device with Sara's sister after Jonathan has flown cross country to find her.

I hate, hate, HATE how the kid on the elevator that pushes all the buttons that screws up the timing for poor Jonathan is dressed in a....wait for it....devil costume. A DEVIL COSTUME??? It's Christmas, not Halloween! I mean, I'm all for crappy symbolism....wait. No. I'm not.

I don't actually think the Meet Cute is all that great.

I am the only person on the entire planet who when watching "The Wire" at the first sight of Bubbles' druggie pal Johnny (Leo Fitzpatrick) shouted: "Hey! That's the temp from 'Serendipity!'"

The only decent review it received was from (gulp) Gene Shalit. "I’ve been reviewing movies for 35 years and Serendipity joins my personal list of matchless romantic comedies. Thrilling, most wonderful and beyond compare!"

Yet, my love, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, persists. The heart knows what it wants and my heart is attached to Marc Klein's wobbly script and Peter Chelsom's basic direction. Every single time John comes back up those steps at the cafe to retrieve his scarf to see Kate already there retrieving the Bloomingdale's bag and then the scene shifts to the snow at Wollman Rink with that Bap Kennedy song goin' I feel my heart flutter and, yes, I know it's syrupy or hokey or whatever else you pragmatists want to call it and I don't care - I don't care - because, well, love is blind and lovers cannot see.

"When I was a child I figured out that I was 1 person, the son of 2 parents and was the 3rd child, born 4 years after my sister and 5 years after my brother, in 1942 (four and two are 6), on the 7th day of the 8th month, and the year before had been 9 years old and was now 10. To me, it spelled Destiny." - Garrison Keillor, "Lake Wobegon Days"

If you know me and can't see me and my best friend on the night before my wedding finding ourselves in a ludicrous "Agatha Christie-like pursuit for (my) long-reputed soulmate" then you don't really know me at all. And if you know me and don't believe that I believe "that if we are to live life in harmony with the universe we must all possess a powerful faith in what the ancients used to call 'fatum'" then you don't really know me at all. And if you know me and don't believe that when my time on this earth is up that my obituary will be far less important than the answer to the simple question "Did he have passion?" being a resounding yes than you don't really know me at all.

As a film "Serendipity" is rather suspect, sure, but then to me "Serendipity" isn't so much a film as an ideology.


filmgeek said...

I love this post :D You made me remember why I love this film, despite my usual complete and utter disdain for Kate Beckinsale

Nick Prigge said...

It warms my heart to know there is actually another "Serendipity" fan out there.

Castor said...

It's not really a guilty pleasure but I don't mind seeing this movie about once a year.

And yes, it always bugs me to see that glove fall from the sky at the end of the movie and then, you see Beckinsale standing 50 feet away ahah

Anonymous said...

Nice writeup... you're passionate about this movie and it shows :D I quite enjoy this one actually, it exceeds my expectation as the poster makes it look like something completely banal.

Your post inspire me to do something like this on a rom-com a lot of people despise.

theoncominghope said...

Thank God it's not just me! Whenever I'm unhappy, this movie perks me up. When I'm happy, it makes me happier. Haters will be haters.

I got some stick for including it in my favorite NY films :p: http://theoncominghope.blogspot.com/2011/11/welcome-back-to-city-lights-series.html

Nick Prigge said...

Amen! Let the haters hate. Your comment just made my day. Thanks for reading.

Will be reading your post shortly.

theoncominghope said...

Thanks! By the way, I've been reading your blog for a year or so now. Really love it! (also, I really need to get out of the habit of lurking...)

Will add your site to my blogroll!

Nick Prigge said...

Thank you. Very kind. I don't mind lurkers. You know, if they're reading, they're reading.

I added you to my own blog roll. Dig your site. I'm all about irony free zones. Those are typically my favorite zones.

Unknown said...

Why when Sara picked up the flier to the golf range did she seem so surprised and eager to get to the range? I don't remember Jonathon saying anything about working/being at the range...