Friday, July 09, 2004

Movie Review: Happenstance

France, 2000
U.S. Release Date: Winter 2002
Running Time: 1:37
Rated: R (Nudity, sexual situations, profanity)
Cast: Audrey Tautou, Faudel, Eric Savin, Eric Feldman, Lysaine Meis

Director: Laurent Firode
Producers: Anne-Dominique Toussaint, Pasqual Judelwicz
Screenplay: Laurent Firode
Music: Peter Chase
Studio: Lot 47 Films
In French with subtitles

Posted by Hello
The chaos theory states that even the slightest detail, gesture, or occurrence can upset the entire order of the world. For example, it is said that “the beating of a butterfly’s wings over the Atlantic can cause a hurricane over the Pacific." This type of thinking provides the concept and theoretical basis for the more recent The Butterfly Effect, a film that toys with both the chaos theory and time travel. But sometimes, just under the awesome powers and inter-workings of the universe, a random chain of events can lead to something grand.

Happenstance is a picture that depicts how tons of tiny and seemingly insignificant happenings have the capability of culminating into a blissful sense of fortuity—that is, without mixing in or tinkering with any elements of science fiction.

The film shows six main characters and how they act, interact, and how each of the six’s actions relate and effect everyone else’s lives. At the beginning both Irene (Audrey Tautou) and Younes (Faudel), who are sitting near each other on the train, hear their same horoscope (Pisces) read aloud to them by another passenger; it reads that tonight they will encounter their soul-mate and fall in love under the stars, the full-moon, and the visible planet Venus. After their horoscopes are announced to them, a random and chaotic series of events takes place--mainly between the six central characters. Each and every event ultimately leads up to the predicted and predestined contingency between the two star-gazing and star-crossed lovers.

While Happenstance may appear at first glance to be a romantic comedy, it is not; it is simply an artistic look at how the succession of events and interactions can result in determining one’s unknown fate and fortune. The film’s ensemble cast of characters all undergo quirky, seemingly minute, and inventive affairs with each other throughout—creating a picture that will make you ponder at some points, and simply smile at others.

This film definitely would not have had the same majestic and charismatic feel to it if Audrey Tautou was not included as part of the cast. Her fine acting talent here earned her the role for which she is most known for, as Amelie; she can also be seen in the more recent He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not and Dirty Pretty Things. Audrey is a petite and pretty brunette who I could watch on screen for hours regardless of her role or of the film’s storyline. This cute, curly-haired, sweet and simple actress radiates with charm and exuberance. Both the subtle soundtrack, equipped with smooth swelling strings and marimbas, as well as the overall aura of the picture, do well in matching Tautou’s magical and marvelous looks and manner.

Although the idea of incidents occurring by mere luck and chance – which then result in life-changing connections and revisions – is nothing new (seen previously in Sliding Doors, The Family Man, and Serendipity), Happenstance is a step above the others. While some may think the film goes overboard with ostensibly, extraneous actions and coincidences, I think it cleverly combines its contingencies of love, luck, and fortune together with panache, making this picture almost just as fascinating and unavoidable as fate itself. (***1/2 out of ****)

© Copyright Brandon Valentine 2004