Sunday, 29 March 2020

Movie Review: It Could Happen To You (1994)


A romantic comedy loosely inspired by true events, It Could Happen To You is amiable enough and benefits from grounded Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda performances.

In New York City, Charlie Lang (Cage) is a kind-hearted police officer, happy to remain a beat cop working the streets with his partner Bo (Wendell Pierce). Charlie is married to the materialistic Muriel (Rosie Perez) who resents Charlie's lack of ambition and their modest Queens apartment.

Yvonne Biasi (Fonda) is a compassionate coffee shop waitress, and she has to declare bankruptcy when her no-good husband Eddie (Stanley Tucci) racks up massive credit card debt. Yvonne and Eddie are separated, but she cannot afford to go through a divorce.

After a quick coffee stop Charlie finds himself short of cash for a tip and promises Yvonne half his lottery ticket. The draw is that night, and the ticket wins $4 million. Although Muriel is furious, Charlie insists on honouring his promise and sharing half with Yvonne. All their lives change forever, and as Muriel starts indulging her every whim, Charlie finds himself increasingly attracted to Yvonne, although the reemergence of Eddie adds further complications.

It Could Happen To You adheres strictly to genre conventions, and adds a layer of genuine sweetness. Charlie and Yvonne are an impeccable fit, both saddled with insufferable spouses, and director Andrew Bergman never introduces even an iota of doubt that the cop and waitress will end up together. With down-to-earth Queens locations, a relaxed tone and an ideal run time of 101 minutes, the film is easy to enjoy.

The couple-to-be are almost too perfect: he helps New Yorkers cross the street and plays ball with the neighbourhood kids every night. She looks after all her regular customers with an outstanding level of bona fide affection. Which raises the question as to how they ended up with their polar-opposite spouses. Muriel is greed personified, hyper-agitated by her man's disinterest in financial wealth. Eddie is nothing but a slimy leach.

Clumsy narration courtesy of an Isaac Hayes character named, of all things, Angel, as well as globs of exposure for the New York Post, are among the other unnecessary distractions.

Where the Jane Anderson script dares to be original is on doubling down on a level of natural goodness and old fashioned charm. Charlie and Yvonne create an irony-free, honesty-rich bubble and gradually work their way towards an authentic love, casting aside the edgy snarkiness often deployed as a humour device. Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda buy into the wholesome personas and add doses of benevolent elegance to the romance.

A lottery win brought two perfectly compatible people together, and the only irony on display is their joint understanding of what true affluence means.






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