Monday, August 6, 2007

Happy Accidents (Anderson, 2000)

What's with the commen trend of filmmakers having the last name Anderson? It just so happens that two of my favorite modern directors go by the same last name. With the discovery of this underseen gem by Brad Anderson, it is possible that he could potentially join them (I like to pretend that Paul W.S. Anderson never existed) to form a unified trio of talented young American directors with a creative voice all sharing that particular surname.

I love stumbling across underseen gems like Happy Accidents that received little attention when it was released and seems to have been swept under the rug to the point of obscurity. That's a shame because here we have one of the best written, acted and affecting romances of 2000. Part comedy, drama and even a little Science Fiction, Anderson brings a level of freshness to a genre bogged down by cliches and has crafted something truely original. The film follows the highs and lows of a strange relationship between an emotionally fragile ESL teacher named Ruby (the gorgeous Marisa Tomei) and an eccentric man named Sam (Vincent D'Onofrio) who claims to be a time traveler. With such an absurd premise, one would expect the film to crumble under the weight of it's on idiosyncracies. This is not the case. Anderson presents us with a refreshing romance full of whimsy and true human emotions between two individuals both searching for that special kind of connection that will bring some sort of satisfactory meaning to their otherwise messy lives. As banal as that may sound, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Anderson skillfully uses this cliched basic set-up to launch into a more detailed analysis of a disintegrating relationship and at the same time cleverly explore the fascinating concept of time travel. I'd classify this film in a similar categroy as Charlie Kaufman's Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind which contains sci-fi elements but is more of a poignant love story. There are no special effects used here and the film is completely character driven relying more on dialogue and personal interactions to express it's themes and meditation on relationships. The script is wonderfully written filled with natural dialogue, witty banter, along with plenty of technical jargon and philosophical debates concerning various aspects of traveling through time.

Tomei and D'Onofrio have great chemistry and it's a pure delight to watch them bring such genuine emotion and intellectualism to their roles. While I found D'Onofrio to be charming in his quirky sort of way, it is Marisa Tomei who truely shines as the vulnerable Ruby. Her insecurity, naivity and one too many heart-breaks have left her in complete distress. She would like nothing more for this relationship with Sam to work out in the end. Unfortunately, he complicates matters and still she can't help but love him despite the constant embarassments in order to avoid the harsh reality of being alone. Ruby spends most of her time trying to figure out of Sam is telling the truth or is just making up his elaborately detailed story just so he can sleep with her. She finds herself breaking down into tears through frustration and even goes beserk at times when she can no longer handle Sam's irrational behaviour. Tomei is totally convincing in these dramatic scenes and she's beautiful and charming enough to cheer on despite her flaws.

The main strength of this film comes from the strong emotionally complex performances from the two leads and Anderson's clever script that deals with far more than just two people falling in love. By putting a spin on the idea of coincidence and fate through a sophisticted plot of time travel, Anderson somehow manages to tie up all the loose threads in a pitch-perfect ending which is a testament it his creative writing abilities. A true rarity that begs to be seen.


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