The word “Serendipity” supposedly means a “fortunate accident”. If that is the case, me watching the film of the same title is almost exactly the opposite. An unfortunate decision better describes both my feelings towards the film, and tells you that I did in fact watch a romantic comedy with intent. It wasn’t by chance that this movie is one that I decided to watch, and in fact was a conscious decision made with the intent of liking the film.
Then I watched Serendipity, and realized that the hopefulness I had felt earlier had been replaced with a feeling of boredom. It’s not so much that Serendipity ends exactly like it should, or that the dialogue was predictable, or even the fact that I don’t personally believe in leaving everything up to chance. No, what really bored me about Serendipity was the entire story arc of one of its leads.
The lead in question is John Cusack’s character Jon Trager. After meeting Sara (Kate Beckinsale) while Christmas shopping one night, the two spend a lovely evening with one another before saying their goodbyes and returning to each other’s dearly beloved. They didn’t do anything that might be considered “cheating”, but they clearly hit it off. Instead of exchanging their contact information, Sara decides that they should leave everything up to chance. She writes her information in a book, one that she will sell to a random used book store the next day. If Jon ever finds the book, he’ll be able to contact her.
Years go by, and Jon still hasn’t found this book. He is now getting married, and decided that he’ll make one last-ditch attempt to find Sara. He only has a first name and an account number to go by, and spends the majority of the rest of the film going from one location to another, always getting semi-helpful information. Every single time he thinks he’s going to get something useful, he gets the runaround, forcing him to go to another location or track down another person who may or may not be of any use to him.
At the end of this process, I was tired of so many coincidences occurring in succession. You quickly become aware that Serendipity is going to drag on and on and on and on until he finally gets enough information, or, by chance, he finds the book he needs. Note that if you have seen one romantic comedy in your lifetime, you are likely going to know how this movie ends.
I know that the point of Serendipity is not to be deep, or to be tragic, and I get that. I still think that having twists in the plot would still help it from getting stale. We watch both people go from place to place, over and over again, and it gets incredibly boring. This wouldn’t be quite so bad if it was actually anywhere close to humorous, or if the characters were solid, but the film chooses to avoid these aspects to take us on a tour guide of Manhattan.
I don’t think I would mind a well done romantic-comedy, I honestly don’t. A feel-good film about relationships that also has some humorous dialogue scattered throughout is definitely something I can see myself getting into. I was kind of hoping that’s what I was going to get with Serendipity, but it lacked in both the relationship department, and in being funny.
There isn’t anything funny about Serendipity, at least, nothing funny in what is written or done. The only humor I could gleam from it was done by me while I was watching it. I vocalized what I thought was going to happen next, and when I was right, I had to laugh. If that was intentional on director Peter Chelsom’s part, I applaud him for that. Unfortunately, I don’t think making the story as predictable as it is was intentional, and instead throws cliché after cliché at its audience.
At least I can say that the characters did not turn me off from enjoying the film; that was left for almost everything else. The two leads did grow on me by the end, and I did want them to end up finding each other. They are likable characters, and while they don’t have much depth, they don’t act in ways that make you root against them. That’s a positive, I suppose.
The supporting cast is the only part where Serendipity gets close to funny. Jon’s best friend Dean (Jeremy Piven) ends up coming the closest to generating real laughter. At one point in the film, he gives Jon an obituary, instead of a best man’s speech. What is said within this speech, coupled with the situation Jon is going through, makes it the funniest part of the film.
Serendipity failed to sell me on the romantic-comedy genre. Granted, basing an entire genre on one film is wrong, and the genre as a whole isn’t something I plan on giving up on. I can certainly see how I could enjoy it, but I’ll have to find out whether or not my expectations can be met. After you realize that Jon’s entire story arc is going to continue to repeat itself right up until the film’s conclusion, you start to get bored. The dialogue wasn’t humorous, and neither were any of the situations. The characters were not terrible, and you will certainly hope for them to succeed by the end, but the story they’re a part of is too easy to predict to make it worthwhile of a watch.