Happy Accidents

Director: Brad Anderson

For years I rejected the notion that I had a romantic type. In fact, it’s a theory I’ve always resisted since no two individuals are alike but after others have pointed out the recurring pattern to be found in men whom I find attractive (tall, typically dark haired, kind, creative, smart, funny, slightly older), there’s no use denying it any longer.

I guess as they say, not only am I one of many who have a type but-- after more than a decade on the dating scene-- I have just as many turn-offs as I do things that cause my head to turn. Whether it’s staying away from gun show enthusiasts, conservative Republicans, smokers, men who loathe foreign film, the devoutly religious, guys without a library card or voter registration, or those who have never been to a museum on an occasion other than a field trip, we all have our deal-breakers with some faux pas (of course!) being more serious than others.

Of course, dating is far more difficult when one is a recovering codependent and such is the case for Ruby Weaver (Marisa Tomei) in writer/director Brad Anderson’s high energy, romantic, fantastical mystery Happy Accidents. Not only has Ruby had her fill of men who were less than her ideal such as the bad actor, the artist who felt she was leaving his work more than him, the fetishist, and addicts and her friend had a scare dating a secretive Jew for Jesus, but as a notorious “fixer,” Ruby’s made it a habit of falling for the wrong men whom she feels she can mold into the best versions of themselves whether they’re interested in changing or not.

While I can assure you that as tempting as it is to try and change men-- even slightly from discouraging an overreliance on their typical wardrobe staples of interchangeable baseball hats-- the only way someone is going to change is on their own, so one needs to make peace with those damn hats and be thankful that (in comparison to the freaks Ruby has met) that’s the least of our worries.

With a therapist to answer to and still so determined to be everyone’s loyal girl Friday so much that she gets fired for being overly helpful and flirtatious as a directory assistance operator, Ruby tries to steer clear of relationships but as we all know, that’s precisely when they spring up like a flower or sometimes a weed in a garden we weren’t looking for.

When Ruby first meets the friendly, intelligent, earnest yet slightly old-fashioned and awkward Sam Deed (Vincent D’Onofrio) who rambles on addictively with theories of time, there seems to be an instant pull but she resigns herself to the fact that Sam is probably one of those men best fantasizing about rather than dating. Of course, this is before he shows up in her life again and after a literal whirlwind courtship complete with fast motion cinematography and quick cuts, we catch up with the blissfully happy couple one week into their relationship which finds them impulsively cohabitating.

However, once they’re sharing the same space, they learn they don’t have room for excess baggage but instead of the usual “getting to know you” discoveries, Ruby is thunderstruck by a revelation offered from the odd, easily confused Sam that he is from the year 2470. With a ridiculous yarn involving time-travel, false arrest, and freedom fighting, in which Sam explains his flight from the “Atlantic coast of Iowa” to come to the year 1999 and meet up with his contact Chrystie Delancey, Ruby grows far more concerned with his mental health, until his story begins to not only evolve as their relationship continues but starts to involve her own future story as well.

Ingenious, clever and unabashedly romantic with superb chemistry between the two leads and great supporting turns by Nadia Dajani and Sean Gullette (Pi), Happy Accidents which was released the same year as the forgettable by-the-numbers time travel love story Kate and Leopold was unfortunately overlooked by mainstream audiences before it was relegated to occasional showings on IFC and even fewer copies placed in video stores across the country.

Fascinating and filled with great screwball dialogue that’s at once so highly intelligent and awe-inspiringly creative it wouldn’t have been out of place in a classic Preston Sturges film, making Tomei’s earthy, caring Ruby seem like a modern take on a role that would’ve been played back in the 1930s and 40s by Claudette Colbert.

Additionally, it’s the type of film that plays even better on repeat viewings when the entire complicated plot can best be appreciated with all of its layers and thankfully without the fierce apprehension one experiences initially. Perhaps and most impressively, the talented work by Brad Anderson (Next Stop Wonderland, The Machinist) can just as easily be called a science fiction or fantasy work as it can a romantic comedy yet it doesn’t fall exclusively into one set genre, dazzling us by breaking both of the molds and constantly switching styles throughout so that it’s as irresistible as a breathtaking date with a man we’ve just realized, much like Ruby, is exactly our type.

In fact, Happy Accidents is not only highly recommended but it’s one of my favorite romantic indie films of the last decade and shouldn’t fail to strike a chord with those who enjoyed Amelie.

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