(3.5 / 5)
A police officer promises to share his lottery ticket with a waitress in lieu of a tip.
Despite obvious weaknesses in the script, “It Could Happen to You” is a captivating romantic story disguised as a film about luck and choices that leaves you with a fuzzy and warm feeling. Original title that gives all of the plot away at once: “The $2 Million Tip.”
Kind-Hearted Cop Charlie Promises $2 Million Tip to Waitress Yvonne
“It Could Happen to You” hit the movie theaters in 1994 and was immediately beloved by audiences for its soft-spoken approach to themes of love and morality. on November 11, 1994 – interestingly, during the same week, the National Lottery system was first launched – and grossed almost $38 million with an initial budget of $20 million, while its opening weekend in the US delivered over $8 million. Nicolas Cage stars as lead character Charlie Lang alongside Bridget Fonda who portrays waitress Yvonne Biasi, a role initially turned down by Madonna and Marisa Tomei. Arnold Schwarzenegger also turned down the role of Charlie, which eventually went to Cage as director Andrew Bergman had worked with him before on “Honeymoon in Vegas.”
The movie takes us on a ride through emotions as we watch the incredibly unlikely story that poses some tough questions about honor and honesty, all with a romantic undertone. Charlie is an NYPD cop who visits the diner Yvonne works at as a waitress. Discovering that he doesn’t have enough money to tip her properly, he makes her a promise: he will play the lottery and give her half the winnings or double her tip the very next day. While she could really use some cash since she is in heavy debt after her husband conned her and took off with their savings, Yvonne decides to go for half of the winnings in the unlikely case that Charlie wins. Yet as Hollywood would have it, their luck strikes, and Charlie ends up with $4 million and a strange choice to make.
He has every intention of honoring his promise to Yvonne, yet he runs against what everyone else thinks is socially expected of him. His partner, played by Wendell Pierce (lately famous for portraying Meghan Markle’s father on ), advocates caution and insists that if he won he’d simply buy the New York Knicks. Yvonne herself has made it clear that she didn’t believe he would actually split any winnings with her, but that he was simply trying to get out of his obligation to tip. Yet his real issue is with his wife Muriel, ideally and loudly portrayed by Rosie Perez, who also starred in 2016’s “Puerto Ricans In Paris.” Intended as an antagonist to Charlie’s kind and honest nature, Muriel is shallow and materialistic – and she goes nuts when Charlie tells her that he promised $2 million to a complete stranger.
Based on an Incredible True Story
The film’s screenplay is loosely based on a real story – although that story’s heroes did not end up falling in love. Robert Cunningham, a police officer, had been friends with Phyllis Penzo for over 15 years, as she worked at a pizza place where NY cops used to hang out. One day in 1984, he jokingly suggested they play a New York State Lotto ticket together, each picking three numbers, and he’d pay her half instead of tipping her. They ended up winning $6 million which they split in half, and Penzo used her share to buy a house and a car. No surprises there – as reveals, buying a house is a top priority for people who would score big in a game of luck, favored by 43% of UK citizens and 26% of US citizens, with buying a new car coming in second at 8% and 5% respectively.
The movie keeps coming back to themes of honesty and human nature, as all of the story’s heroes eventually find their way to what seems like their destiny. The viewer is navigated – who left his stamp on TV by voicing Chef on “South Park.” Charlie and Yvonne seem destined to fall in love and choose each other over money, Yvonne uses the money to buy the diner she works at and provide free meals to the poor in Charlie’s name, while Muriel spends most of her money and ends up falling for a con man she chooses over Charlie. Everything works out in equal parts fun and sentiment, culminating in a happy end in this silly and heart-warming but not particularly memorable movie, with good performances from great actors.
A movie that is perfect for a cozy Friday night in with your better half – but one that will probably not stay with you beyond the weekend.
Now available on Blu-ray & DVD