Patient: Happy Accidents
Profile: Terrifically engaging movie about a man from another world—or is he?—whose appearance in our world makes one think about such big issues as love, trust, identity and fate. Unfortunately, at the last possible moment, the film chickens out and, in the interest of a Hollywood ending, produces a parlor trick that makes one think of the big mid-'60s sitcoms. Think Man Facing Southeast meets Bewitched meets The Time Machine meets I Dream of Jeannie.
Symptoms: I really liked this movie and completely recommend it to you even at full price, even if you have to—as I did—endure a Westside art-house crowd, the kind that laughs at things that aren't funny just to show how clever they are; you know, the kind that despoils watching any Woody Allen effort. Funny, fanciful, mysterious and thought-provoking, Happy Accidents is well-scripted, especially with its effortless cuts between past and present, a critical element given that the movie's main plot device is time travel. For an hour and 42 minutes, it's a wonderful movie with a beautifully realized climax that some may see as tragic but that is true in its expression of what it is to be human. Unfortunately, Happy Accidents is an hour and 45 minutes long. Because I enjoyed this movie, because I want you to see it and because the ending is critical to your enjoyment, I'll not give away what happens; I'll say only that a movie that was profoundly human suddenly became profoundly Spielbergian. Now, art does not exist in a vacuum. And a movie about seemingly innocuous choices with tragic consequences set in New York cannot escape events. In the wake of last week's devastation, what shocked me most was not human beings' ability for cruelty nor their facility for compassion and sacrifice; what struck me most were the stories of people who made what seemed like innocuous decisions that either put them in or took them out of harm's way. We are all time travelers, and for an hour and 42 minutes, Happy Accidents reminds us of what a horrifically wonderful journey life is. It's clear that writer/director Brad Anderson understands that. It's unfortunate that in the end, he didn't trust that his audience would.
Diagnosis: The meaning doesn't justify the end.
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Prescription: An hour and 42 minutes . . . Life . . . Fade to black.