All chick flicks are basically flawed, in that they are feel-good films designed to make the impossible seem possible. This is part of their charm, but when it’s not done quite right, it can be extremely obnoxious. I have to say, I do enjoy many chick flicks. I’m picky about them, but some of my very favorite films are chick flicks, and the more straightforward they are, the more I will enjoy it.
Serendipity was not straightforward. It was extremely circular, full of mumbo-jumbo, and continual near-misses at happiness. You know the kind of scene I’m talking about, where two characters are trying to find each other, and as soon as one of them gets near the other, the other leaves and they’ve lost each other again. An Affair to Remember is a good example of this kind of thing, but no spoilers here. Now An Affair to Remember is one of my favorite classic films, but the near-miss only happens one time. In Serendipity it happens over. And over. And over. Until I was even more thoroughly frustrated than I was in the first several minutes of the movie.
Let’s backtrack a little bit. Serendipity starts out with two strangers, Jonathan and Sara, meeting each other by accident while Christmas shopping in New York City. They laugh, they talk, they seem to hit it off, so they go for a coffee together, and decide they’re perfect for each other. Or rather, Jonathan feels they’re perfect for each other, and Sara believes only fate can decide their…well, fate. She keeps insisting they need “a sign” that they’re supposed to be together, they need to allow fate to work. Now, this wasn’t just an attempt to get rid of an annoying guy. She genuinely likes him, and he is head over heels for her. But her head is so stuffed full of nonsense she refuses to do anything. Instead she chooses passivity, saying “Fate will bring us together.” She sends her phone number out into the world hidden inside a copy of a book, and if fate brings him the book, they will find each other and live happily ever after. And then after playing many games with him, trying to find “signs” from fate (“you push an elevator button, and if I press the same one in a different elevator, we’re meant to be together”), she leaves.
Now, I’m going to be totally honest. I feel like only an absolute certifiable psycho would behave like that. Or if not a psycho, a player. From a different perspective, you could say it’s sweet and romantic. But I couldn’t separate this film from reality. In reality, if any girl pulled that on a guy, most of us would advise him to run for his life. I feel this way, because I’ve seen it happen. So many times, we expect guys to move heaven and earth for us, to jump through any hoop we put in front of them. I’m sorry, but that’s not love. Love is two-sided. Love means you both work for each other, you work together, and you both do what it will take. It is not asking your partner to perform great feats to prove something to you. If you want a real relationship, don’t waste time playing games like that. Spend your time building each other, and building together.
Aside from the game-playing side of things, I was also really frustrated by the sunshine-and-lollipops side of fatalism. The idea that we don’t have to do anything but sit back and let our lives be lived for us. We don’t have to choose to work for a relationship, because it will magically happen for us. But choosing not to make choices, choosing not to work is still an active choice. There is no such thing as true passivity. Only cowardice. We don’t get to sit back and blindly trust fate, God, etc., to work everything out, and say we don’t have to do anything. Yes, God works all things for our good, but we are also told to work out our own lives as well. We don’t get to hide behind fate, behind our parents, or even behind God, and say they get to live our lives for us. We are to live in the light of wisdom, trust, and knowledge, not sit back on our haunches saying, “What will be will be, so I don’t have to do anything.”
I’m sure you can tell by now, this was not a movie I enjoyed at all. Sara annoyed me for the above reasons. Jonathan annoyed me for how hotly he pursued such a psycho woman who wasn’t even willing to be with him when they both claimed they wanted to be together; how he mooned over her for ten years. Ten years, that she had inflicted on him unnecessarily, simply to satisfy her own notions of fate and destiny.
This was another point I disagreed with Sara on. Now this quote, I actually agree with. It's a wonderful, beautiful quote, and I love it by itself. Life is a kind of tapestry. It has a plan, forms a picture that maybe we cannot see when you look at one or two threads. But in context in the movie, Sara makes it clear that culmination of this plan, in her view, is the finding of one’s soulmate. That is the entire point of life’s plan. See any problems here? Like, when you find your “soulmate”…what then? Your life no longer has a plan and purpose? What if you don’t have a destined soulmate?
Maybe I’m taking this film too
seriously, but that’s how I tend to watch most films…consciously and analytically,
and I can only write about my perspective of them.
Yes, in the end as in every chick flick ever made (spoiler alert) they all live happily after. Fate brings everyone together. The realist best friends (who were the only aspect of this film I enjoyed) were proven wrong and also embraced the romanticized view of life, and the excessive optimism. But that’s not how it works in real life. Sometimes when you walk away from a relationship, that’s it. You don’t get second chances. Sometimes goodbye is goodbye, and sometimes you don’t even get a goodbye. Life isn’t neat and tidy, tied up in lovely little packages.
I suppose that’s the charm of chick flicks, but it’s also their biggest flaw. We like to think the lovely little packages are possible. I don’t object to that, per se. Sometimes it’s nice to see something work out so perfectly. But sometimes the message behind the lovely little package is more than I can handle. That was the case with this one. I believe our lives and experiences color the way we view things, even films. And I’ve known one too many Saras, and I’ve seen one too many Jonathan’s get hurt by game-players. So that colored my view.
Other people may be able to look at it simply as a nice fluffy fairy tale, and take it lightly. If so, I’m happy for you, because I can tell it really would be a fun film, if you can get past and ignore the bizarre fatalistic philosophies. As I’ve said in the past, I’m a major overthinker. I analyze everything, and movies are no different. If anything I analyze them more. (It's a family thing.) Sometimes that brings me more enjoyment, sometimes, as with this, it brings me less, but most other people would probably enjoy the romantic side of it. Really, when they started looking for each other, even I was able to enjoy the treasure-hunt aspect of it, even though the series of near-misses started to grate on me after awhile.
As far as content, there are no sex scenes, very little language, and a small amount of innuendo. Parts of it are quite hilarious, and the best friends of the main couple, made the entire film almost worth it, even to me, especially Jonathan’s friend Dean. If you give it a try, or if you have already watched it, how about posting comment below letting me know your view of it?