My Favorite Movies #98 – It Could Happen to You

It Could Happen to You - PosterIt Could Happen to You


Directed by Andrew Bergman

Netflix says… In this charming romantic comedy based on a true story, a coffee-shop waitress gets a life-changing tip when a beat cop comes up short on pocket change and promises her half of his potential winnings from a lottery ticket.

  • Netflix might be right about its description of this one. Charming may be the perfect word to describe It Could Happen to You.
  • Did you know it’s loosely based on actual events?
  • There really was, once upon a time, a cop who split his winning lottery ticket with a waitress.
  • I’m pretty sure they didn’t fall in love, though.
  • Charlie Lang (Nicolas Cage) is probably the best person in New York City. He’s a beat cop who loves what he does and loves his place in life.
  • Muriel Lang (Rosie Perez) is probably the worst person in New York City… no, that can’t be true. I can probably think of at least one other person in New York in 1994 who is worse than the fictional Muriel Lang.
  • Anyway, she’s unhappy with her life as a hairdresser and wife of an honest cop who doesn’t make a lot of money.
  • As the movie goes on, I’m going to question (a lot) why she and Charlie ever got together in the first place.
  • Seriously… what on earth does he see in her?
  • Yvonne Biasi (Bridget Fonda) is probably the person having the worst day in New York City. She’s a waitress in a coffee shop who’s just been forced to declare bankruptcy because her husband ran out and ran up a bunch of credit card debt in her name.
  • Muriel had a dream that they were going to win the lottery. So she insists that Charlie pick up a lottery ticket.
  • Waiting in line for this ticket makes him and his partner late to grab some lunch, so they stop into the diner where Yvonne works.
  • Fate steps in.
  • Charlie doesn’t have enough cash to cover the check and a tip, so he swears that he’ll either split the lotto winnings or come back with double the tip the next day.
  • Can I just take a moment to express how cute I think Bridget Fonda is? I mean, she’s not someone you’d think of as drop dead gorgeous (unless you would), but she’s kind of adorable.
  • Anyway… we are shown that Charlie is well loved by all the kids in his neighborhood. He plays stickball with them in the street until the sun goes down.
  • Then he goes in to have dinner with Muriel… who continually treats him like crap.
  • Seriously, what did he ever see in her to make him want to marry her?
  • Muriel complains that Charlie picked the wrong number. He was supposed to pick the date of their anniversary, 27… but he picked 26, because they always celebrate the day before their actual anniversary.
  • But they win a share of the jackpot anyway. Good thing Charlie picked 26 instead of 27, huh?
  • She calls the lotto office and she’s pissed that they have to split the winnings with a bowling team in Albany.
  • That leaves them with $4 million.
  • She doesn’t think that’s enough to get by on… really?
  • She’s gonna be furious when Charlie tells her about the waitress.
  • There’s a lot of high pitched yelling.
  • Seriously, what did he ever see in her to make him want to marry her? Her voice would be enough to make me run in the opposite direction whenever I saw her coming.
  • Charlie goes back to the diner and gives her a choice: double the tip that he owes her or half the lottery winnings.
  • On a whim, she takes half the lotto winnings, thinking she gets nothing. And just like that, her life is changed.
  • She can’t believe it. But Charlie says, “A promise is a promise.”
  • At the presentation of the gigantic novelty checks, the cop and waitress story is big news. It takes the city by storm.
  • Fun fact: a young Emily Deschanel (Bones) plays an extra participating in a protest against fur who throws red paint on Muriel after she buys a fur coat.
  • Yvonne’s husband, Eddie (Stanley Tucci), makes a comeback. The timing of this is suspicious.
  • Charlie continues his work as a cop. But then he gets shot while on duty, giving him a chance to take some time off.
  • Time passes. Charlie recuperates from his injury. Yvonne buys her diner. Muriel keeps being Muriel.
  • They all meet back up at some kind of millionaires’ ball on a yacht. When Charlie notices Yvonne having trouble with the cabbie that’s dropping her off, he goes to help. And then the boat leaves without them.
  • So they have a lovely evening together. And Muriel never even notices that Charlie is gone.
  • Charlie and Yvonne begin spending a lot of time together doing nice things for a lot of people, including taking Charlie’s neighborhood kids to spend a day at Yankee Stadium.
  • If I were a married man, I wouldn’t be able to do that. Because I know there would be too much of a chance that I’d fall for Yvonne.
  • And Muriel assumes Charlie is falling for Yvonne and, therefore, kicks him out, asking for a divorce.
  • Seriously, what did he ever see in her to make him want to marry her?
  • At the same time, Eddie weasels his way back into Yvonne’s apartment. In order to avoid him, she goes to stay at the Plaza. Which is exactly where one of the kids in Charlie’s neighborhood suggests that he stay once he’s kicked out.
  • They’re given rooms right next to each other. Funny how that works.
  • As the divorce proceeds, Muriel demands all the lottery winnings, including what Charlie gave to Yvonne.
  • It gets dirty in court. And because Muriel hires an attorney who’s willing to play dirty with half truths while Charlie stays on the up and up the entire time, of course a jury rules in favor of Muriel.
  • Yvonne believes that, because of her, Charlie now has nothing. From Charlie’s perspective, because of her, he has her. He never cared about the money.
  • At the diner, they begin making plans for their future when a homeless man stops by looking for something to eat and a warm place to escape from the rain.
  • Turns out the homeless guy is a photojournalist for the New York Post. He does another story about the cop and the waitress, highlighting how they were willing to give all they had, even though they had nothing left to give.
  • The people of New York get together by sending in thousands of notes and letters which include tips that come out to over $600,000.
  • In the end, Muriel winds up with nothing after a sleazeball she met on the yacht empties her bank account.
  • Eddie winds up with nothing except a career driving a taxi cab.
  • Charlie and Yvonne live happily ever after.

6 thoughts on “My Favorite Movies #98 – It Could Happen to You

    • You know, she could be the sweetest lady in the world. I just don’t think I’d be able to go the distance in an extended conversation with her. But I’d do everything I could to separate her from the character she plays in the movie.


  1. Pingback: My Top 100 Movies | The Confusing Middle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s