There’s a line in “Splash” that I thought of when I watched this movie. Tom Hanks plays a sweet guy who falls in love with a girl who turns out to be a mermaid. Utterly deflated when he finds out the truth, he says, “I don’t understand. All my life I’ve been waiting for someone, and when I find her — she’s a fish!”
The charm of that comment is that it is a metaphor for the way many people feel when they fall in love and have to grapple with the high-wire balancing act between intimacy and independence. That is certainly true of Ruby (Marisa Tomei) in “Happy Accidents.” She and her friends keep a box of pictures of former boyfriends (called “The Ex Files”), as they try to sort through the weirdos and creeps. They tell themselves that they aren’t even looking for Prince Charming anymore, just someone who is not too crazy and will be nice to them.
Ruby meets Sam Deed (Vincent D’Onofrio) and at first he seems too good to be true. He may have some quirks, like being scared of dogs, taking sea-sickness medicine on land, and being oddly unfamiliar with some of the basic facts of daily life. He is sweet and tender and crazy about Ruby, and that seems enough for a while, until she has that Tom Hanks moment. Sam’s not a fish, but he’s something almost as outlandish. He is a time traveller, born 400 years from now, when Iowa is on the ocean, and he has come back in time to be with Ruby because he saw her picture in an antique store.
Is he crazy? Is he sick? Is he really from the future? And, most important, does that mean he can’t be her boyfriend?
This is a tangy romantic comedy that plays sly games of its own with time as the story unfolds. While it is not quite up to the writer/director’s previous “Next Stop Wonderland,” it is a charming love story and a lot of fun. Tomei and D’Onofrio are terrific, as are Holland Taylor as Ruby’s therapist, Tovah Feldshuh as her mother, and Anthony Michael Hall as himself.
Parents should know that the movie has very strong language, sexual references and situations (not explicit), drinking (including references to alcoholism), smoking, and drug use. A character is in peril and there is a scary accident.
Families who see this movie should talk about how we look at the risks of falling in love and how to get close to someone without losing ourselves.