A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Serendipity is a 2001 romantic comedy starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale that explores the theme of love and fate. Kate Beckinsale's character smokes cigarettes, and some drinking is shown, including a dinner party scene in which a man gives a toast while drunk on champagne. The two male leads are shown looking into a nearby window and watching two people having passionate sex -- there's no nudity, but it's obvious what's happening. Infrequent profanity (bulls--t," "crap," "ass") is heard, and there's some sex-themed humor.
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What's the story?
SERENDIPITY is (1) a "happy accident" and (2) a New York restaurant that serves sweet, frozen goodies. It is #1 that brings our couple together, as both try to buy a pair of black cashmere gloves at Bloomingdale's, and #2 where romantic sparks fly when Sarah (Kate Beckinsale) takes Jonathan (John Cusack) there to thank him for letting her have the gloves. There's a strong romantic connection, but both are involved with other people, so they part, with two romantic note-in-a-bottle opportunities for fate to bring them back together. He writes his name and number on a five-dollar bill, which she puts back into circulation. And she writes her name and number in a copy of Love in the Time of Cholera, which she sells to a used book store. Years later, as both are about to get married, they are still drawn to each other. So we're in Sleepless in Seattle/When Harry Met Sally land, watching them just miss each other a dozen times until the happily-ever-after ending.
Is it any good?
This is romantic confection with all the weight of a soap bubble, but it has all the sheen and charm of one, too. Cusack and Beckinsale are just right, giving a small touch of bittersweet reality to the fairy tale. Sarah's insistence on letting fate determine the outcome could make her seem arbitrary and foolish, but Beckinsale shows us that it's just the result of Sarah's struggle to overcome a deep romanticism. Cusack, always superb in showing us that same struggle, makes Jonathan's quest to find Sarah genuinely touching.
The script wobbles at times. The respective fiancés are neither interesting enough to merit their screen time or awful enough to make us feel comfortable about seeing them get dumped. And the near-misses get a little overdone. Adept performances by sidekicks Molly Shannon and Jeremy Piven and by Eugene Levy as a persnickety Bloomingdale's salesman provide buoyancy. And cinematographer John de Borman captures New York City as a dreamy wonderland, with twinkling lights and floating snowflakes.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about romantic comedies. How does this compare to other romantic comedies you've seen?
How was the theme of fate explored in the movie? What were the ways, big and small, in which the idea of "if it's meant to be, it's meant to be" was shown?
Do romantic comedies and love stories create unreal expectations in the minds of those who have watched these their whole lives, or do you think people watch movies like these simply to be entertained?
- In theaters: October 5, 2001
- On DVD or streaming: April 9, 2002
- Cast: Jeremy Piven, John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale
- Director: Peter Chelsom
- Studio: Miramax
- Genre: Romance
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: a scene of sexuality, and for brief language
- Last updated: September 17, 2020
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