While Christmas shopping for their significant others, Jonathan (John Cusack) and Sara (Kate Beckinsale) share a chance encounter over a pair of black, cashmere gloves. He is instantly smitten, but Sara believes in destiny and after one magical night, they leave it up to fate as to whether or not they truly belong together.
A few years later, both are engaged to be married to other people, but Jonathan and Sara are suddenly awash in memories of that night in New York and with a little help from the universe, set off to find one another. Of course, fate continues to throw them a few curveballs, and Jonathan and Sara both begin to realize that it’s their choices that will determine whether or not they find happiness, not destiny.
I remember watching this movie in the theaters when it came out in 2001. It became one of my favorite romantic comedies and remains so to this day. It asks a lot of questions that I find fun to debate. Is destiny real? Do soulmates exist? Can you fight off an army of blood-thirsty Vikings with a shenai?
The plot does require a lot of faith, acceptance of some plot contrivances, and a willingness to turn a blind eye to some of the more glaring “that would never happen” moments (i.e. how does Sara get on an airplane without her ID when she and Eve switch wallets? Did that light cashmere glove really fly to the middle of the skating rink in the snow to land perfectly on John Cusack’s chest?), Serendipity’s success ultimately comes down to the two main leads, and if their chemistry is palpable enough to root for them to ditch their likable significant others and surrender to fate. The answer is yes, it is. John Cusack does what John Cusack does best, and with a lot of charm and humor.
Beckinsale is more of the “straight man” here. Even Molly Shannon gets more laughs, but Beckinsale is the heart of the movie, the one who triggers the idea of fate and the power of simply believing. Even when she’s informing a patient of hers that it’s dangerous to believe in soulmates, it’s clear she still thinks of Jonathan and wonders “what if”. While she’s running around New York City in an attempt to track down the man at the heart of her own serendipitous encounter, it’s clear that fate is not her only motivation. She’s questioning everything in her life, including her new fiance and perhaps finding Jonathan will give her an answer as to what she really wants in life.
With incredibly funny comedic turns from supporting players like Eugene Levy, and John Corbett, Serendipity is warm, fluffy, and charming. There’s no room for logic and explanation here… “you don’t have to understand. you just have to have faith.”