In Happy Accidents, writer-director Brad Anderson (Next Stop, Wonderland) aims for a hybrid of romance and science fiction when he pairs sweet, appealing Manhattanite Ruby Weaver (Marisa Tomei), who’s perpetually attracted to broken men she can repair, with attractive oddball Sam Deed (Vincent D’Onofrio), who claims to be a time traveler from the year 2470.
Is he actually from the future or merely delusional? Unfortunately, the sluggish pacing and repetitive nature of Happy Accidents prompts a different question: Who cares? Anderson (who cites Martin Amis’ backward narrative novel, Time’s Arrow, as inspiration for his third feature) doesn’t know how to construct anything remotely like a compelling plotline. Happy Accidents stumbles along as Ruby increasingly doubts the sanity of her obsessive lover, even as she’s drawn into the elaborate nature of his tall tales.
Brad Anderson spends way too much screen time on Sam’s overly detailed, futuristic stories, ignoring that the audience is seeing only present-day New York City. Instead of perpetual, monotonous revisions of the Deed family saga, Anderson should focus more on the great strength of Happy Accidents: The obvious attraction between Ruby and Sam and the crackling chemistry arising from the union of these two unabashedly loopy personalities.
Tomei and D’Onofrio are performers able to easily project a complex emotional life behind even the most simplistic of characters, and when they portray the romantically vulnerable (she in Untamed Heart and What Women Want, he in The Whole Wide World and Mr. Wonderful), they slice right to the heart of the matter.
The happiness here comes from seeing them as the romantic leads. Hopefully the future will bring them another opportunity to unleash their considerable gifts together, and in a film which doesn’t feel so much like an accident waiting to happen.
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Serena Donadoni writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail her at [email protected].