Monday, 27 August 2012

“Serendipity”. A Review Of The 2001 Peter Chelsom Film Now On A 2012 BLU RAY.

"…Stuck For Eternity With Her Skirt Around Her Shoulders…
...And The Blood Rushing To Her Head..."

It's so hard to get a rom-com right - and when it happens - it tends to eek its way into the hearts of millions of movie fans around the world. "Serendipity" is one of those films. And at last fans can finally get their hands on a High Definition copy of it in 2012 (January in the USA and February in the UK). And I'm glad to say that this Miramax/Lionsgate BLU RAY boasts a gorgeous print and decent extras. And it's cheap too...

Defaulted to 1.78:1 ratio - the beautifully framed picture fills the entire screen with no bars top or bottom and no stretching of the image. And right from the get-go "Serendipity" looks 'so' good - crisp and clean images all the way through - with scene after scene using the wintry New York locations to maximum effect. The soundtrack too has a strong 5.1 surround mix that amps up the great music.

Written by MARC KLEIN and Directed by PETER CHELSOM - its on-the-money casting puts together two really smart, likeable and able actors - JOHN CUSACK and KATE BECKINSALE. They play Jonathan Trager and Sarah Thomas - an American guy and an English girl whose fate is set in motion by a store assistant placing a pair of gloves on the sale rack in Bloomingdales a few weeks before Christmas. They obtain the gloves from another customer through mutual skulduggery and then spend a magical night getting to know each other in snowy New York (he comments that her arm freckles resemble Cassiopeia in the constellations - dialogue above). After hours of talking and a gut feeling that something ‘stellar’ is afoot - they pass on their respective phone numbers to each other - hers on the inside flap of the Gabriel Marquez book "Love In The Time Of Cholera" and his on a five-dollar bill. But of course the winds of fate intervene (literally) and each gets lost. Four years later we find that both Jonathan and Sarah have moved on with their lives and are now engaged to differing but largely unsuitable partners. But of course neither can help but wonder - was that person in New York a million hours back their soul mate - their "Godfather" original and not Part 2 the sequel? And should they ditch what they've settled for now and go searching for what they really want? And on the story goes in a hugely enjoyable way...

In their manic searching and journey back to each other - they are ably assisted by a superb set of supporting roles - Jeremy Piven as Dean Kansky, Jonathan's loyal and witty friend, Molly Shannon as Sarah's scatterbrained pal Eve, John Corbett as a flute-playing egotistical musician trying to marry Sarah as long as it fits in with his European Tour and Eugene Levy as the eccentric and monthly-target-driven Bloomingdale's sales clerk. Both Piven and Levy have become huge since but can justifiably trace the public noticing them to this 2001 outing.

The use of music in the film also deserves a special mention. A lot of the time - the typical rom-com is populated with lazy and obvious choices - not here. Not only do the songs suit the scene and the mood conveyed - they're tunes you probably done know but would want to. Bap Kennedy was the lead singer with a short-lived Northern Ireland band called Energy Orchard who then put out a lovely solo album called "Lonely Street" in 2000. The track lifted off it is called "Moonlight Kiss". When Jonathan and Sarah are trying to get to each other in the last portion of the movie, Chelsom uses the stunning "Rose Rouge" by St. Germain (on their "Tourist" album - itself due for a DELUXE EDITION double in 2012) which features a sample of Marlena Shaw chanting "I want you to get together..." over an incessant drum beat. There's the ethereally beautiful "Northern Sky" by England's Nick Drake on the ice rink ("I've never felt magic crazy as this...") and Annie Lennox's cleverly re-arranged cover of Bob Marley's "Waiting In Vain". There are also nice contributions by John Mayer, Shawn Colvin and Heather Nova. But the unsung gem here is an acoustic instrumental that's used as link-music throughout the entire film. It's by England's David Gray and is called "January Rain" - it turned up on his lesser-heard "Lost Songs 95-98" CD along with the equally moving "Flame Turns Blue" (which I hope to use in a screenplay one day).

To sum up - like George Clooney's "One Fine Day", Pierce Brosnan's "Laws Of Attraction" and Richard Gere's "Shall We Dance" - "Serendipity" is an underrated but properly lovely watch - and this BLU RAY finally does full justice to its multiple charms.

Get all metaphysical on yo ass people - and buy it.

BLU RAY Specifications:
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio Surround 5.1
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 (Full Screen)
Language: English
Subtitles: English and English for the Hard-Of-Hearing.

Bonus Features:
1. Feature-length Commentary
2. Deleted Scenes With Optional Audio Commentary
3. Behind The Scenes Documentary - "On The Set"
4. Production Diary
5. Theatrical Trailer
6. Storyboard Comparison

PS: check out other great films by Director Peter Chelsom:
"Hear My Song" (1991), "Funny Bones" (1995), "The Mighty" (1998), "Town And Country" (2001) and "Shall We Dance" (2004) [see BLU RAY REVIEW].

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