Happy Accidents (2001) ***1/2
Directed by Brad Anderson
“The future isn’t what it used to be…” –Sam Deed, Happy Accidents
What Happy Accidents lacks in originality, it more than makes up for in its smart and funny execution. The film plays almost like a mix between Donnie Darko and Sleepless in
My friend, and avid blog commenter, Lucy Todd recommended this film, and recently, I read that film critic Richard Roeper included it among his “buried treasures”—films that deserve bigger praise and a bigger audience. First of all, I’m glad Lucy made the recommendation, but even more so, I’m glad that Roeper mentioned the fact that the film isn’t well known. Therefore, I began watching the film assuming that it was going to be good, but maybe not great. I read and listen to movie critics enough to know films that have received praise even if they weren’t hits. I’ve never heard of Happy Accidents before Lucy recommended it. If it really was going to be amazing, then I believe that I would have at least been familiar with it.
In my opinion, my cautious optimism going into Happy Accidents was exactly the right attitude to approach this movie. The movie isn’t great, so I wasn’t disappointed. Yet, I’d definitely call the film good—maybe even very good. I enjoyed the film enough to feel quite satisfied with it. The problems that the film contains, and yes it does contain problems, weren’t significant enough to make me begin disliking it overall. I’m embarrassed to make this reference, but I feel like the child that eats the porridge of the three bears. Baby bear’s porridge, like my initial attitude, was just right!
Marisa Tomei plays Ruby Weaver, a diagnosed codependent. As such, she’s oftentimes self-destructive in her romantic relationships because she identifies her self-worth with her boyfriends. In a session with her therapist Maggie Ann Ford, called Meg for short, Ruby describes her first encounter with Sam Deed (Vincent D’Onofrio), a socially awkward man with a past that at times is very hard to believe. He mentions that he’s new in
Ruby, with the help of Meg, friends and family, goes back and forth between wanting to go along with his delusion, which she at first thinks might be a harmless romantic game Sam is playing, and wanting to leave him. Ruby begins to doubt Sam’s sincerity and to question his sanity when she finds his drawing book filled with the same drawing and the name Chrystie Delancey printed over and over throughout. Things become further complicated when Ruby discovers that the pictures in Sam’s wallet, which he has said are of his sister and parents, are actually from photo sheets placed inside of frames for sale. A final twist involving the prediction of Ruby’s accidental death raises the stakes at the end and makes us question more than once whether Sam is indeed from the future.
Marisa Tomei, who will always be known for winning the most surprising Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in My Cousin Vinny, has proven herself an extremely talented and capable actress in films like In the Bedroom and Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead. She’s wonderful in Happy Accidents which allows her to display her impeccable comedic timing. Personally, I think Vincent D’Onofrio was the wrong choice for Sam Deed. He’s not bad in the film, but I think he’s a bit too obvious. Other than his work on Law and Order: Criminal Intent, D’Onofrio, along with actors like Ray Liotta and Christopher Walken, is known for playing dangerous psychopaths and weirdos. At first, I believe that Sam is supposed to come off likeable in his seeming innocence and naivety. Personally, because it was Vincent D’Onofrio, I was uncomfortable with him from the beginning since I know his characters often have the potential to invoke terror (see Full Metal Jacket and The Cell). Had a less menacing actor been cast, then I might have appreciated Sam Deed’s transitions between seeming sanity and insanity in a greater way.
Donnie Darko, one of my favorite films, takes itself very seriously in its attempts to play around with the philosophy of time. Clues are given throughout the film which assists the viewer when interpreting its bizarre ending. Happy Accidents isn’t open for interpretation—the science of time travel which Sam explains is straightforward and fully explained. By the end, we have a very clear answer as to whether Sam is lying, delusional or telling the truth.