Happy Accidents

on August 24, 2001 by Annlee Ellingson
   A science fiction movie without any special effects, Brad Anderson's "Happy Accidents" is a touching love story about a woman who believes in love so badly that she's willing to commit to an insane person or a time traveler, whichever proves to be the case.

   Ruby (Marisa Tomei), in therapy for her need to "fix" the men in her life, one day runs into Sam (Vincent D'Onofrio) in Central Park. A recent immigrant from Dubuque, Iowa, he charms her with his innocence, and they quickly move in together. Gradually, though, Ruby begins to notice that Sam is a little different: He mutters bizarre things in his sleep, he is afraid of small dogs, and he occasionally experiences spells, staring blankly at the most minute things on the street or in a coffee shop.

   When Sam finally confesses--that he's a back traveler from the year 2470--Ruby's girlfriends advise him to toss his mug shot into the "ex-files." But Ruby resists, going along with the fantasy, believing that it's just a game.

   Despite its futuristic plot, Anderson limits his visual tricks to rewinding the film to illustrate Sam's drag--back traveler lingo for jet lag. But the writer-director has a vivid imagination when it comes to the future, envisioning the complex history, geography and politics of the world 470 years from now and the scientific theories that will make time travel possible.

   Indeed, Sam's postulations are the most entertaining moments in the script, and D'Onofrio's delivery convinces the viewer to be utterly unconvinced as to the truth about his character. Likewise, Tomei is engaging as a hopeless romantic rationalizing that it does not matter that her lover is a little loopy--he is the best relationship she has ever had. Supporting characters--Nadia Dajani as Ruby's straightforward confidante, Holland Taylor as her overly helpful therapist and Jose as Sam's conspiracy-perpetuating co-worker--are just as complex, proving Anderson a consummate writer and director.    Starring Marisa Tomei, Vincent D'Onofrio, Nadia Dajani, Holland Taylor, Tovah Feldshuh and Sean Gullette. Directed and written by Brad Anderson. Produced by Susan A. Stover. An IFC release. Romantic comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 105 min.

Tags: Marisa Tomei, Vincent D'Onofrio, Nadia Dajani, Holland Taylor, Tovah Feldshuh, Sean Gullette, Brad Anderson, Susan A. Stover, An IFC release, Romantic comedy, loopy, imagination, traveler, Central Park

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