Serendipity never tries to be some big “important” film, and that’s why I’ve always considered it to be my favorite romantic comedy. It’s so effortlessly charming that you can’t help but fall in love with it.
Much as its title suggests (Serendipity refers to a “fortunate accident”), the film showcases a number of missed calls and almost meetings between two soulmates who are supposedly “destined” to be together. The lovers in question are played by Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack, and the actors are downright perfect in their roles. Beckinsale has always been one of my favorite performers, and that’s primarily due to her role here. She’s so charismatic right off the bat, and you immediately buy her chemistry with Cusack. Yes Cusack has seemingly disappeared from Hollywood in recent years, but there was a time when it felt like he was in every movie in town. His dynamic with Beckinsale is one you undeniably root for, and that lends the film a great sense of purpose as fate toys with our hopeless romantics.
Although it’s hard to ignore that Jeremy Piven has recently come under fire for a ton of sexual assault allegations, there’s no denying that’s he’s pretty great as Cusack’s best friend Dean. The “sarcastic best friend” clichè is a tried and tested formula, but Piven is very entertaining in the role. Even better is Sara’s wisecracking buddy played by the delightfully hilarious Molly Shannon. The woman’s got some truly magnetic screen presence, and both supporting actors do a terrific job of keeping the plot moving while allowing our two leads to nag about their feelings.
There’s one more character I haven’t mentioned… and that’s the city of New York. Yup, Manhattan feels like a living, breathing entity in Serendipity. Its various hallmarks (I can’t believe I never tried the actual Serendipity coffeeshop when I lived in the city) provide the ideal backdrop for Jonathan and Sara’s twisty maze of fate. The film gives you that homey feeling that transports you right into the story, making it the perfect choice for a cozy night in.
Eve: You know who plays Golf? Guys who are too fat to play tennis.
Jonathan: I hope you enjoy the gloves you bought yourself.
Sara: Oh, I’m sure I will, I usually enjoy my own thoughtfulness.
Sara: Favorite New York moment?
Jonathan: This one’s climbing the charts.
Jonathan: Maybe the absence of signs is a sign.
Dean: If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.
Dean: Maybe you’re lying here because you don’t want to be standing somewhere else.
With first-rate performances and an endearing premise, Serendipity is still as enjoyable and lovable today as it was in 2001. Highly recommended.