You know, the truth is, I actually like romantic comedies. I am man enough to admit that. We all would love to live in a world of love and friendship and gentle laughter. Why not? You think I want it to be all The Hurt Locker all the time? No way! That movie was great, but it was basically a two hour long prescription for Xanax. The problem with romantic comedies, though, is that they are tied with action movie as the genre that Hollywood feels most comfortable phoning in. And when a romantic comedy is lazy and bad, it rewrites the definition of lazy and bad. And when you look up the definition of lazy and bad on your Franklin Portable Electronic Dictionary, there is a streaming video of Serendipity.
Serendipity is about a stupid jerk (John Cusack) who goes to Bloomingdales to buy his girlfriend–whom he apparently hates–a pair of gloves, but then this woman (Kate Beckinsale) wants the gloves for her boyfriend, AND THERE IS ONLY ONE PAIR OF GLOVES. In the event that you are wondering what kind of cashmere gloves are both the same size and style for a girlfriend or a boyfriend, you are already thinking too hard about this movie, and you should turn it off and lie down. But, so, you know how it is when you’re trying to buy a really lazy, thoughtless present for a person you are about to prove that you couldn’t care less about and someone else is trying to do the same thing? What do you do in that situation? YOU GO OUT FOR EXPENSIVE YUPPY DESSERTS! So, just to clarify, we are five minutes into this movie when it reveals that it takes its name from an over-priced Upper East Side “patisserie” for assholes. (Visit them on the web!) Perfect. How many more bullets I mean minutes are left?
After their $45 hot chocolates, or whatever, John Cusack tries to get Kate Beckinsale’s number, but she spouts some nonsense about fate and gets into a cab without even telling him her name. But then he forgot his scarf and she forgot–God, is this movie over yet?–her Bloomingdales bag, so they run into each other back at the dessert store and they make the decision to go ice skating in Central Park, because nothing says romance and spontaneity than a tourist trap crawl.
We are now 10 minutes into the movie. John Cusack is seriously DOGGING Kate Beckinsale. He must be the best boyfriend on Earth! Who wouldn’t fall for a guy like that! “I’m not going to fight you over who gets to buy these gloves as a present for their significant other because I fucking HATE her!” And no wonder he is dogging her so hard, because her insistence on elaborate tests of non-existent fate are just so charming and wonderful. She finally relents and writes down her phone number on a scrap of paper, but then a passing truck stirs up a whirlwind of scrap paper and John Cusack loses it in the storm!
ONLY IN NEW YORK! Kate Beckinsale refuses to write it down for him again, because truck-passing-generated-trash-whirlwinds are “signs” that they shouldn’t be together, or at the very least shouldn’t call each other. Finally, she comes up with another scheme. She makes John Cusack write HIS phone number down on a five dollar bill, and then she uses that money to buy some Certs. She says that if the five dollar bill ever makes its way back into her wallet, then she will know that they were meant to…what? Go on a fucking date? NONE OF THIS IS AS IMPORTANT AS SHE IS MAKING IT OUT TO BE. In return, she writes her phone number in a copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera, not only ruining a perfectly good copy of Love in the Time of Cholera, but turning it into a plot device of this movie, just literally raping that book in the face like a criminal in the night. She says he will have to stop in every used book store that he sees and look for it, to which he should say, “No, I won’t, because I am an adult, and I don’t play games.”
There are some other things that happen and some more games that are played, but you’re not really going to make me explain them, are you? Let’s just say that they get separated, and years go by, and now they are both engaged to get married. But they are also both still thinking about each other for some completely hackneyed reason, although the real reason is that they are pieces of shit, because why are you going to get engaged when you so badly do not want to be engaged that you still fantasize about some dumbdumb that you met in the Bloomingdales Glove Department a thousand years ago? “We had so much in common! We both love ridiculously overpriced novelty desserts!” So John Cusack enlists the help of his friend Jeremy Piven (purrrfect) to track down Kate Beckinsale just days before his wedding, even though he still does not even know her name. And Kate Beckinsale travels to New York just days before her wedding because she just has a feeling that she needs to find John Cusack because one day in the rain she lit up a cigarette in front of a Cool Hand Luke poster.
WHAT A BUNCH OF WINNERS. LET’S ALL GET TRIPLE-MARRIED!
I would love to tell you that they never find each other, and that they both end up marrying the losers who don’t have the common sense to leave them because we are all adult human beings deserving of respect and self-worth in this world, and that very shortly into their marriageFAILs both of them are hit by buses and or airplanes, but naturally after many HILARIOUS near misses, they both call off their weddings and meet again in Central Park, where it is snowing but people are on roller-blades? The point is this movie sucks dick.
You could make a list of things that are awful about this movie, but I wouldn’t want to insult the grand tradition of lists. Obviously, the plot is contrived, the characters are two-dimensional, the concepts of both love and fate are misguided, childish, and insultingly stupid, and Jeremy Piven is in it. And the movie’s plot devices are so lazy as to be impossible. Like, Kate Beckinsale finds the magic five dollar bill again when she accidentally switches wallets with her friend. But she doesn’t notice she switched wallets until she got on an airplane. Really? Made it all the way onto an airplane after checking out of a hotel and going through an airport and never–oh, nevermind. Not to mention the plot device of an unfindable mystery person in a movie that features both cellphone and Internet technology, and Telly from Kids is in it:
And did I mention that it takes its name from an Upper East Side dessert store?
Is it possible for restaurants to kill themselves?
What I will applaud this movie for is that it does not delve into the Hollywood cliche of loving making people better. For example, at John Cusack’s Sham Engagement Party Dinner, Jeremy Piven makes a reference to how John Cusack long ago gave up on his college dream of becoming a documentary filmmaker, to which his parents shout “HERE HERE!” Now, in a normal romantic comedy, his love for Kate Beckinsale, and their magical reunion, would have reminded him that he should never have given up on his dream and that now he finally had the courage and confidence to do what he always wanted. Not so in Serendipity! As far as we know, John Cusack stays at his dull, miserable job. THIS MOVIE DOESN’T PLAY BY THE RULES!
The funniest thing about Serendipity is the fact that it came out on October 5, 2001. OH NEAT. If you will recall, that was a period in American history when everyone thought of New York as the perfect place for desserts and romantic encounters. Do you guys remember how after 9/11 how Hollywood would try to digitally alter the movies from that in-between period, because God forbid the Twin Towers appeared in the background of a scene in Zoolander and send all of America into fits of PTSD? That was obviously stupid and ridiculous. But I would not be averse to digitally removing this ENTIRE MOVIE from the movie. It is just too painful. It is just TOO SOON.