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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Serendipity Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Just in time for Valentine’s Day, Lionsgate debuts the delightful romantic comedy, Serendipity on Blu-ray Disc for the first time. The Miramax film stars Golden Globe nominee John Cusack (Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Comedy/Musical, High Fidelity, 2001) and Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbor) as two star-crossed lovers who are hoping to find their way back to one another years after the night that they met.  Jonathan (Cusack) and Sara (Beckinsale) meet one evening while shopping for the holidays in New York. While they’re each on a task to purchase a gift for their respective significant others, the two have instant chemistry. Despite both of them wanting to pursue a relationship, Sara decides that their love should be left up to fate – and if they are meant to be, then they will find one another again. Years later, and engaged to other people, Jonathan and Sara both find themselves wondering what could have been.



Film (4 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

According to the film, the word Serendipity means a fortunate accident.  It’s a very fortunate accident that Jonathan Traeger (John Cusack) and Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) both reach for the same pair of gloves in a New York City department store.  It’s Christmas-time, and it’s the last pair of gloves.   After a quick polite back and forth where each suggests the other party take the gloves, they put them back on the rack to discuss it. Another shopper scoops them up, and Sara and Jonathan quickly put together an unusual story of why they both need the gloves for the same person.  Having never met before the chemistry is instantly apparent and although they both have significant others, they head to the eatery Serendipity for dessert.
They reluctantly say goodbye and part without even exchanging names when Jonathan realizes he’s forgotten his scarf and Sara has forgotten the gloves that were purchased.  They show up at the same moment to retrieve their belongings and Jonathan says to Sara “let’s do something.”  Something is a magical night with ice skating, the story of Cassiopeia romantically drawn on the freckles of Sara’s arm.  While exchanging numbers, the wind blows hers out of Jonathan’s hand and Sara decides that fate should decide.  She feels that if they are meant to meet again they will.  She has Jonathan write his name on a bill which she spends and then writes her name inside the book “Love in the Time of Cholera”, which she promises to sell to a used book store.  That way their numbers are out there in the universe and should make their way back to each other if it’s meant to be.  The last test of fate happens at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel where Sara has Jonathan get in the elevator opposite her and hit a random button.  They both hit the same floor but a bratty (and randomly costumed child) makes Jonathan take too long to get to his floor and Sara has left by the time he reaches it.
Life moves on and Sara has moved to San Francisco.  She has a boyfriend names Lars who is an unusual musician, and claims she no longer believes in fate as she counsels others. Lars proposes to Sara with the box in a box gesture, and she says yes but her ring doesn’t fit.  For those that believe in fate that would be a sign that maybe they’re not the right match.  Jonathan has moved on as well.  He is engaged to Halley, a beautiful brunette who seems to have everything going for her – she just isn’t Sara.  As Jonathan’s wedding approaches, he gets antsy about finding Sara and enlists the help of his best friend Dean (Jeremy Piven) to help.
Dean and Jonathan return to Bloomingdales, then Sara’s former apartment which leads them to a shop next to Serendipity.  That shop is now a bridal store, and Jonathan says it’s time to call it quits.  He explains that the signs are telling him to get married, and that even the absence of signs is a sign.  Disappointed, they head to the rehearsal.  Halley has noticed that Jonathan has looked at every copy of “Love in the Time of Cholera” he has come across, and she gives it to him as a wedding gift.  Jonathan is floored when he opens it and sees Sara’s phone number inside.  He jumps in a cab and gives the book to Dean and they are soon off to San Francisco to find Sara.
At the same time, Sara is getting cold feet of her own and convinces her best friend to take a trip to New York City with her.  Sara is not honest about the fact that she’s looking for Jonathan.  If she had been, things would have been much simpler as her friend went to school with Halley and was invited to the wedding.  I know that the plot sounds complicated and is a little (or a lot) contrived and full of coincidences, and for once that’s okay with me because it’s just so darn cute.  Believe it or not, I haven’t summed up the entire plot.  At this point Sara and Jonathan are far from finding each other and it seems as though fate as been playing with them both.
When I think of the top ten super cute, uber-sweet chick flicks, Serendipity definitely has a solid place on that list.  John Cusack has never been cuter, and he and Kate Beckinsale are a couple that definitely works well together. It’s clear the movie is all about fate bringing Jon and Kate’s characters together and it would be easy to say that you know what’s going to happen from the very beginning.  This is one of those movies where I suggest turning your brain off, not thinking too hard.  If you just go with it, it’s a very sweet movie and definitely one of my favorites. I love everything about this movie, except the kid in the devil costume that messes things up at the Waldorf for Sara and Jonathan.  It’s Christmas, why is the kid in a costume?  That’s literally my only problem with the movie.  The rest might be slightly implausible and a tiny bit contrived but I don’t care.  I love this movie, and by extension John Cusack.   Don’t pick it apart.  I don’t want to hear about all the random people that helped out that wouldn’t have in real life.  This is better than real life – it’s a chick flick and it’s one of my favorites!

Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

Serendipity is presented on Blu-ray in high definition, 16×9 widescreen ratio.  The video is a little less impressive than the audio.  Some scenes were remarkably crisp and clear and others seemed as though they were from a different film all together.  Colors were well defined and the black levels were fairly dark. The video quality was certainly adequate for a chick flick with even flesh tones and no CGI or special images to test the eye of the viewer.

Audio (4 out of 5 stars) 

The soundtrack plays a major role in this film with Shawn Colvin and Nick Drake adding to the emotion.  Serendipity is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio and the listener feels most immersed during the bustling shopping scenes at Bloomingdales and other crowded locations.  The dialogue is clear and consistent throughout which is the most important, in my opinion for this type of film.  There are no real special effects to listen for, but the sound of Lars’ instrument was a little too clear if you ask me!

Special Features (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The special features were a little heavy on the director.  I would have especially enjoyed a commentary with John Cusack and Jeremy Piven.
  • Feature Commentary with Director Peter Chelsom – Commentary includes his take on the actors, the script, the locations and the film-making process.  I found him interesting to listen to, even when talking about why he chose specific shots and other such film-making details.  Particularly interesting to me was that Kate Beckinsale injured herself during a shoot and the director really wanted to use the footage, but decided it was in poor taste.
  • Behind the Scenes Starz Encore “On the Set” – A behind the scenes, making of featurette.  Features interviews with cast and crew including the primary actors and director Peter Chelsom.
  • Peter Chesolm’s Production Diary – A Diary which you can turn page by page, and it will turn for you if you wait long enough.  This is filled with many of the same stories from the feature commentary, and I found it rather repetitive.
  • Deleted Scenes – Deleted Scenes with commentary by Director Peter Chelsom.  I think the movie is perfect as is.  I’ve seen it so many times; it’s a little off putting to see new footage.
  • Storyboard Comparison – Very brief Picture in picture comparisons between the storyboard drawings and the final scene golf scenes in the movie.
  • Theatrical Trailer

Final Thoughts (4 out of 5 stars)  

Serendipity belongs in the chick flick hall of fame.  It’s sweet and wonderful and makes a Grinch like me believe in fate and true love.  To those of you who will say that the plot is contrived I say you’re heart must have shriveled up and died already.  Those who know me, are laughing right now because I’m not usually the least bit sentimental and even I wouldn’t think that a movie like this would appeal to me.  It worked in all the right ways and instead of picking apart the details I thoroughly enjoyed it and continue to do so with each and every viewing.  My only major complaint is the casting of Molly Shannon as Kate Beckinsale’s best friend.  First of all, Molly Shannon seems like she’s acting in a “Saturday Night Live” skit, not co-starring in a romantic comedy and she’s out of place.  I can think of a million actresses better suited for that part.   Even that tiny detail didn't ruin it for me; it’s still one of the best chick flicks around!
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