Review by David Hecht
Directed by Brad Anderson (II)
MPAA: Rated R for language. Runtime: 110 Country: USA Language: English
Hollywood only makes good SF when they’re not trying to. Although there are exceptions (the original Star Wars and, more recently, Men In Black, come to mind), consider the “romantic comedies” Groundhog Day (1997) and Sliding Doors (1998), as well as the Jim Carrey crossover vehicle The Truman Show (1998).
Of course, there are those who would argue that Happy
Accidents (2000), an Independent Film Channel production,
co-sponsored by Canal-Plus, hardly qualifies as a Hollywood film. No
matter: this may be the best SF movie you have seen since the underrated
Ruby Weaver (Marisa Tomei—My Cousin Vinny, Someone Like You) is a co-dependent, neurotic New Yorker who has had a seemingly endless series of bad relationships (her girl friends and she keep a shoebox of pictures of their former lovers, appropriately marked “The Ex Files”). Sam Deed (Vincent D’Onofrio—Men In Black, The Thirteenth Floor) is a gentle and charming naïf (“I’m from Dubuque, Iowa,” he introduces himself).
But Sam has a secret—when Ruby asks him what brings him to New York, he tells her, “your face”. When she asks him what he means, he explains: he’s not from “her” Dubuque, Iowa. He’s from Dubuque, Iowa in the year 2470. Once, he saw an old picture with Ruby’s face, and he was so transfixed he simply had to come back in time almost 500 years to meet her.
Of course, Ruby, her girl friends, and her shrink all assume that it can’t be true (her girl friend Gretchen (Nadia Dajani) says, “Come on, it’s just a game—play along!”). Ruby confronts Sam: “Time travel’s a physical impossibility!” Undaunted, he answers: “Oh, come on! So’s the light bulb! So’s going to the Moon! So’s male pregnancy!”
It’s just this sort of throwaway line that Robert Heinlein best established alienness (his example: “The door dilated.”), and it’s just these little touches that work to give real credibility to Sam’s view of himself, and that make us enter into the “Is he or isn’t he?” spirit of the movie.
And it’s perfectly appropriate that New York City, until recently the epicenter of world-weary cynicism (and the venue for that other brilliant SF classic of recent years, Men In Black) is where that ambiguity rings the truest. In New York, we can all have our own narratives: why not be a man running away from a future where most people are cloned, and “naturalists” (people who believe in fathering and bearing children the old-fashioned way) are a persecuted minority?
“The future isn’t what it used to be,” Sam answers one query about why he left. Neither is Hollywood’s vision of it. But every so often, without intending it, they still contrive to make a little gem like this one. Highly recommended.
© 2001 Ernest Lilley / SFRevu