Next Stop Wonderland

The Darien Gap (1995)–also written by Lyn Vaus and director Brad Anderson–proved that talky slacker movies could be self-indulgent without being smarmy, and this low-key romantic comedy proves that destiny-powered love stories can be formulaic without being predictable. When her boyfriend leaves her with a Dear Jane videotape, Erin (Hope Davis), who dropped out of medical school to become a nurse, finds comfort and insight in phrases she chooses at random from a volume of poetry dedicated to her by her late father. Right away we know she’s supposed to meet Alan (Alan Gelfant), a plumber studying marine biology who volunteers at an aquarium. But the more frequently and ingeniously their paths almost cross, the less likely it seems they’ll ever find each other. With a wink and a nod to conspiracy thrillers and misogynistic comedies, Anderson and Vaus skewer–and reverently use–the conventions of corny, fate-based love stories in this melodically edited and gently surprising tale. 900 N. Michigan. –Lisa Alspector

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): film still.