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'Happy Accidents'

'Happy Accidents' is an offbeat love story

Friday, October 26, 2001

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

Romantic destiny is not just a matter of "Serendipity" at the movies these days.

 
 
'Happy Accidents'

RATING: R for language.

STARRING: Marisa Tomei, Vincent D'Onofrio.

DIRECTOR: Brad Anderson.

WEB SITE: www.happy-
accidents.com

CRITIC'S CALL:

   
 

We've already seen John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale cast their fate to the winds in midtown Manhattan. Meanwhile, in a hipper part of town, Marisa Tomei and Vincent D'Onofrio explore a weirder brand of kismet in "Happy Accidents," now at the Manor and Denis theaters.

If we are to believe Sam Deed (D'Onofrio) -- and we're as skeptical as Tomei's character, Ruby Weaver -- it really wasn't an accident at all. Sam says he's a time traveler from the 25th century who fell in love with her in an old picture he found in a curio shop.

Yeah. Right. But he's got an answer for everything. Every time Ruby finds a hole in his narrative large enough to poke her head through, he comes up with an explanation, however unsatisfying. But just when she's ready to throw him out, this gentle geek does something sweet or silly or romantic enough to let her rationalize keeping him around.

As her therapist (Holland Taylor) keeps saying, Ruby is a fixer -- someone compelled to take on men as reclamation projects, inevitably failing. She and her girlfriends keep pictures of their old boyfriends in a box labeled "The Ex Files," which is an example of the breezily cynical tone that writer-director Brad Anderson establishes.

The movie hangs on two questions. Is he or isn't he? Will they or won't they? Fall in love, that is. Sex is a given in this crowd. Ruby's best friend, Gretchen (Nadia Dajani), says the rest doesn't matter as long as the sex is good. What they fear most are religious freaks. Ruby embraces Sam with a happy squeal when she asks if he has any desire to go into a church they're walking past and he says, "Why would I want to do that?"

And she wonders why her life feels so empty?

Still, maybe she should believe in something greater. The deeper she digs into Sam's claims, the more disturbing it gets. Is he delusional? Is he ill? Is he dangerous? Is it remotely possible he's telling the truth?

Suffice to say that destiny proves more complicated -- and more ironic -- than it appears. Writer-director Anderson seems particularly intrigued by the subject. His previous film, "Next Stop Wonderland," centered on a woman dating a series of men who answered a personal ad, oblivious to the man she seems fated to meet.

Tomei has been down this path before, too, looking for a soulmate whose name came up on a Ouija board in "Only You," filmed partially in Pittsburgh.

She wears her emotions on her sleeve in "Happy Accidents," which is understandable given the setup, but her intense, alternating moods wear a bit thin after a while. D'Onofrio, who always wears an aura of oddness about his characters, seems almost normal most of the time, except for his gawkiness and his wild claims.

The whole thing winds back on itself so much, like the reverse vision that plagues Sam from time to time, that the movie seems to be trying too hard after a while. But "Happy Accidents" offers an offbeat and sometimes funny take on men and women that gives the old Mars-Venus analogy a fresh twist.

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