It would still be two years before Kate Beckinsale would don her fangs, blue contacts, and black cat suit and become a blip on the radar for the guys among us. Yes, she had done Pearl Harbor, but how many guys thought that was just a romance story that happened to revolve around a particular historic event. Can anyone say Titanic? Serendipity came out the same year as Pearl Harbor, so 2001 was likely the year that Beckinsale really came out, at least to the women in the audience. Of course, Serendipity didn’t bring in near the kind of cash that Pearl Harbor did, and honestly, it’s kind of fallen by the wayside in the last decade. Mirimax is doing something about that with the new Blu-ray release of John Cusak and Kate Beckinsale in Serendipity.
Jonathan Trager (Cusak) and Sara Thomas (Beckinsale) are both doing a little Christmas shopping for their significant others. In a department store they both attempt to lay claim to the last pair of black gloves on the counter, each tugging on a separate glove. They share a little laugh and conversation and Jonathan offers to allow Sara to have the gloves in exchange for a coffee together. While they both are in relationships, they begin to have feelings for each other. They appear to keep bumping into each other, and Sara is a believer in fate, or serendipity, if you will. She decides to leave their future in the hands of chance. She will write her name and number on a book and sell it to a random bookstore the next day. He puts his information on the back of a five dollar bill, and she spends it at a newsstand without peeking. The idea is that if they were meant to be together, the information will find itself back to them.
It’s a decade later, or a few years depending on if you watch the deleted scenes. Both are about to get married to other folks. Yet both are still haunted by that one-night encounter. They each set out to try to find the other, leading to some rather predictable near-misses and the eventual reunion. If you consider any of that a spoiler, you obviously have seen less romantic comedies than I have, and that’s saying something.
I don’t mind the predictability so much; in fact I suspect the audience would be a bit disappointed with anything else. If you’re a fan of this kind of movie, you expect to play the game. You know they’ll end up together, but you want to see them work for it. So I’m not really bothered by the incredible coincidences that at first keep them apart and eventually bring them together. The film milks the concept for all it’s worth. Sorry, Peter Chelsom. You did milk it for all it’s worth. Now that’s not a bad thing, except he tries really hard in an interview to convince us that he doesn’t. If he hadn’t we’d have been rolling credits about eight minutes into the film. Eight-minute films just don’t have that kind of pull at the box office, and this one made a respectable $50 million.
If you’re drawn to this kind of film at all, it isn’t going to be for anything but the performances. Chelsom does a pretty good job of just pointing the camera and letting his performers…well…perform. There’s reasonably good chemistry here, and it works even more when you consider that they actually spend most of the film apart. Where the film goes wrong is when Chelsom tries to hard to inject more into the atmosphere. The snow doesn’t work for me, and while there’s an attempt to create some kind of romantic magic here, I think he gets that more from the two leads than he does from anything thrown into the mix. Unfortunately, the supporting cast are pretty much throwaway characters with the notable exception of Jeremy Piven as Jonathan’s best friend Dean. These two share better chemistry than Cusak ever does with Beckinsale. He’s the funniest part of the film, and I suspect is the only thing keeping the pace going, as the film tends to drag considerably in the middle. Their significant others are very thin characters. Sara’s fiancé is a new age musician who is just too off the wall to be truly believed, and Jonathan’s is almost nonexistent. So there are some nice moments in the film, but the pacing is the weakest link here. It might be worth a “date night” rental. She can get into a romantic fantasy. He can watch Kate Beckinsale and imagine what she’d look like with fangs, blue contacts, and a slick black body suit.
Serendipity is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average 25-30 mbps. I have to say that the high-definition image presentation is quite impressive. Colors are quite natural. The real perfection here is the film’s lighting. Chelsom has an eye for the perfect way to light a scene that retains its natural look yet manages to highlight just the right aspects of the shoot. It might be the best shot romantic comedy I’ve seen. Too many are slick and glossy and appear to live in this magazine or Barbie world. Serendipity lives in the real world of a New York City winter.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is not at all aggressive, nor is it intended to be. This is a dialog picture, and that’s what you get. It’s crisp, clean, and even dynamic at times.
There is an Audio Commentary with director Peter Chelsom, but it’s quite dry and great sleeping material.
All of these extras are in standard definition.
Starz Encore – On The Set: (19:54) If you’ve seen one of these you’ve seen them all. It’s promotional with the typical cast and crew sound bites.
Deleted Scenes: (15:50) There are 9 with play-all and commentary options.
Storyboard Comparisons and Trailer
In a big plus for the film, it never descends into a sexual film. There isn’t any real mush here, so the guys can feel a little bit better watching this one with your own significant other. If you’re hoping to see these characters get together physically, it doesn’t happen, and I couldn’t be happier. If more romantic comedies were like this, I might even be willing to review them a little more. It might not have been the best film I’ve seen this year, or this month. Heck, it isn’t even the best film I’ve seen this week. “But sometimes you just have to settle for Mr. Right Now.”