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I am not a big rom-com, or romantic–comedy fan, however for the sake of finding a movie I could watch with the girlfriend I thought I would give Serendipity a go on a recommendation from a friend. Starring John Cusack (Grosse Point Blank) and Kate Beckinsale (Pearl Harbour), this film tells the story of Jonathon Trager and Sara Thomas, who unwittingly meet when fighting for a pair of gloves in a department store. So begins the tale of Sara and Jonathon as star-crossed lovers in the big city.

Kate Beckinsale has a beautiful smile...
Sara and Jonathon really hit it off on their first encounter however both have partners. They have a drink together and decide that they should go their separate ways, however it is only a few minutes later that their paths cross again. Sara is a big believer in fate and takes this as a sign, so they spend the evening together. They get along like a house on fire and are obviously attracted to each other, however they both have partners and Sara decides the best way to play this, is to write her name and telephone number in a book which she will sell to a second hand book store the next day. If Jonathon finds the book then it was meant to be, and if he doesn’t then fate has made its decision. So that she has a chance of finding him, Jonathon writes his name and number on a five-dollar bill and this is then spent. Once again if Sara finds the note in the future, then the pair are obviously mean’t to be together. They part and leave their future together in the hands of fate.

This was my first Beckinsale experience and so I have no benchmark for her, but can say she played the part of Sara very well, and while showing a few touches of English embarrassment or confusion probably taken from Hugh Grant’s acting repertoire, she faired well in this film. I always rate Cusack as I like his dry humour and quiet demeanour, which can easily turn into an exploding, shouting, and unexpected fit of rage. Some nicely shot scenes show that it is not just epic struggles between good and evil that require a focused director to play a part in the film experience. The story is well written with a few slight twists and near misses in the action to keep the audience entertained, and it is this which keeps the old “boy falls for girl, boy loses girl, boy tries to get back girl” theme alive where many other similar films have failed.

.. but she's a rubbish skater.
It’s worth talking about Jeremy Piven who plays Jonathon’s best friend, Dean Kansky. The rapport which Cusack and Piven share really helps the “best buds” relationship they share. Mostly this comes from the fact that they are both best friends in real life which helps the almost double act which they present to the camera. He gives a good performance which while is quite far away from his role in Grosse Point Blank, still has the same comedy elements present.

Buena Vista present Serendipity in 1.85:1 and of course, enhanced it for widescreen TVs. The opening scene was actually quite poor which did not bode well for the rest of the films quality, however after the opening scene the quality gets better. It is not going to win any awards for sharpness or colour depth, but there is little low level noise, and colours are mostly realistic. Blacks occasionally have a tendency to merge together and the definition is lost, however for this type of film it is perfectly adequate.

Time for a hug.
The 5.1 surround track is probably not necessary for a movie like this, which is very dialogue driven. However there is a lot of music during the film and the rear speakers are used a lot for this very thing, but I did find the sound levels a little low. Dialogue is clear and presented well even when the actors are ice skating, which the director acknowledges was hard work since skating produces a fair amount of noise.

One thing that really annoyed me about this release was the layer change. I have mentioned it before in previous reviews, but this disc certainly takes the biscuit for strange places to place a layer change. Cusack and Piven are having a conversation outside in a park and just as Piven opens his mouth to speak, the layer change occurs and you are left with a frame of a man with his mouth open on screen for a quarter of a second. I was most put off by this and it ruined the flow of the conversation.

This is what you end up staring at during the layer change.
The disc comes with a full length commentary from director Peter Chelsom. He’s from Blackpool so it made a refreshing change to be talked at for an hour and half by a British voice. If I didn’t have to I probably wouldn’t have listened to the commentary on a film such as this. However there were actually a lot more links between each character in their quest to find each other than I originally thought, so it was quite rewarding. He also talks about all the minor inconsistencies in the film such as lighting, use of snow (too much, not enough), what the “snow” actually is and where Cusack added bits of improvisation to the film.

Presented in 4:3, there is also a behind the scenes documentary included, which runs in at about 20 minutes. It is a pretty standard ‘made for TV’ fodder, but it is nice to hear some of the behind the scenes conversation on set. John’s comment about “dirty British girls” was a little unexpected. Also included as extras on the disc are five letterboxed deleted scenes with an optional directors commentary which while contain some amusing quips, it is easy to see why some of them are now deleted. Also present is a photo gallery containing random photos from the film and its production. One thing I was impressed by was the menus. They are beautifully animated with snow flakes falling down and really help to set the scene for the film.

The big question now: Would I recommend this? Well actually, yes I would. If you are after a film that both of you can watch without one of you hiding behind a cushion because of too many heads exploding, or that leaves the other bored as it is an uninteresting lovey-duby story in which you care not for either character, then I would say check this out. The film was quite good, and the disc is reasonable except for the blood-boilingly inappropriate place for the layer change. Certainly not a movie I would watch more than once, it was a “nice” way to spend an evening and I do not regret it.