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Film / It Could Happen to You

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It Could Happen to You is a 1994 American romantic comedy-drama film directed by Andrew Bergman, starring Nicolas Cage and Bridget Fonda.

It is the story of New York City police officer (Cage) who wins the lottery and splits his winnings with a waitress (Fonda). This basic premise was inspired by a real life incident.

Not to be confused with the 1937 and 1939 films of the same name. Nor should it be confused with It Should Happen to You.

Tropes seen in this film:

  • A-Cup Angst: Muriel apparently had this, as one of the things she did with her newfound wealth was get implants.
  • Ambition Is Evil: Charlie is content to be a beat cop, not even moving up to detective, while Muriel's desire for money is consistently portrayed as bad. Similarly, aside from buying the diner she once worked at (and using it to give free meals to the homeless), Yvonne is never seen indulging herself otherwise.
  • Amoral Attorney: Muriel's lawyer, who among other things, tries to make Charlie look like a wife-beater.
  • Asian Store-Owner: The deli Charlie and his partner frequent is run by a Korean husband and wife pair.
  • Betty and Veronica Switch: Yvonne is the Betty while Muriel is the Veronica, but Charlie's married to Muriel while Yvonne is "the other woman". Usually with this trope, the roles are reversed.
  • Big Applesauce: Encompassing the entire city.
  • Character Narrator: The mysterious man who keeps popping up at various intervals in the story.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: The mysterious man who keeps popping up at various intervals in the story is revealed to be the movie's narrator as well as a reporter for the New York Post. It's he who has provided the paper with photos of Charlie and Yvonne at various intervals of their relationship (it backfires in revealing it to Muriel), and the final shot of them is what moves the city en masse to help them.
  • Con Man: Jack Gross, whom Muriel marries - he takes her money and flees the country.
  • Covers Always Lie: Despite the romance that eventually develops, the shot of Charlie and Yvonne on the poster (which transposes their names) never appears in the movie.
  • Dead Sparks: During an argument, Charlie and Muriel are genuinely sad to realize that their relationship has come to this.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Moved by their plight, people from all over the city send money to Charlie and Yvonne, leaving them with enough funds to pay off their debts and return to a comfortable middle-class life.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Coming quite late in the film, but when Muriel takes back the dollar Charlie gives the homeless man, it drives home how thoroughly greedy and selfish she is.
  • Friend to All Children: Charlie gets along with the children in his neighborhood. At one point Charlie and Yvonne rent out Yankee Stadium for a day and invite the kids to play baseball.
  • Fur and Loathing: Muriel buys a fur during her shopping spree and it turns into Doomed New Clothesnote  when she runs into some PETA analog group, who throws red paint on her.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: Charlie and Yvonne's relationship is the film's love story, while Muriel's relationship with Jack is disapproved of, despite arguably being less than Charlie and Yvonne's.
  • Greasy Spoon: The diner where Yvonne works and eventually owns.
  • Hate Sink: Muriel pretty much exists to give the audience someone they can despise in the film, being a self-centered, materialistic jerkass who cheats behind her husband's back, tries hogging all of Charlie's lottery money for herself, kicks Charlie out of their apartment because he's too generous with donations and finally lies in court that her husband has been abusing her, when it's the other way around.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Muriel's new husband rips her off, leaving her living with her mother and working in a nail salon. Meanwhile, Yvonne's equally greedy ex can only get work as a cab driver.
    • Even earlier, not two seconds after buying a fur coat, she's splashed with paint by an animal activist.
  • Meaningful Name: The narrator/reporter is named Angel DuPree.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Muriel's money-grubbing ways, taking back all the money from Charlie and Yvonne, results in a sympathetic city donating money to them.
  • Nice to the Waiter: When he doesn't have enough money to leave Yvonne a tip, Charlie promises to return the next day with it, or to split the proceeds of the lottery ticket he just bought, should it win. When he does, he keeps his promise. He's later seen giving a homeless man some spare change, and towards the movie's end, both he and Yvonne provide the same homeless man (though they don't realize it) with some soup, even though they literally don't have a cent to their name at that point.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Charlie gets shot in the arm while intervening in a robbery and doesn't even realize it initially. True to form, he wears a sling for a few scenes, then is fine.
  • Out-of-Character Alert: Charlie and Bo realize their local grocer is being robbed when the guy claims his wife is out sick—"That bitch would show up for work if she was dead"—and gives them their coffee for free.
  • Pretty in Mink: Muriel's shopping spree includes buying a fur, and at the lotto millionaires party, we see some ladies wearing mink stoles.
  • Rags to Riches: More like "middle-class to. . ." for Charlie and Muriel, but definitely "rags" for Yvonne, who was filing for bankruptcy and so broke that she couldn't even afford to divorce the husband who ruined her financially.
  • Riches to Rags: Muriel ends up right back where she started, working in a beauty salon (or even worse off, considering that before, she was married and living in her own apartment, but now lives with her mother) after her new husband steals all of her money and skips town. This also technically ends up happening to Charlie and Yvonne, who end up pretty much back where they started, albeit a bit more financially secure.
  • A Side Order of Romance: The premise of the movie. A married police officer offers to give a waitress at a diner half of the winnings from his lottery ticket as a tip. When his lottery ticket wins, he receives millions of dollars. When he gives her half the winnings, his wife gets annoyed, eventually causing them to get divorced. Over the course of the movie, the cop and the waitress eventually fall in love and get married.
  • Standard Female Grab Area: When Charlie tries to appeal to Muriel's better nature (even though she obviously hasn't got one). She promptly cites it as proof that she's a battered wife.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: Muriel is a greedy, selfish, materialistic shrew, leaving not only the viewers, but the entire city of New York to fall in love with Charlie and Yvonne's love story, even though it's an emotional affair at the very least (to their credit, they don't consummate it until after Muriel kicks him out, but they're still legally married).
  • Trademark Favorite Food: The very first thing Yvonne buys with her share of the lottery money is a jar of macadamia nuts.
  • Unexpected Virgin: Charlie shyly admits to Yvonne that Muriel is the only woman he's ever slept with.
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: As cited in the above link, only the basic premise of the story is true.
  • Wealthy Ever After: More like "comfortable", as the donations from numerous New Yorkers enable them to pay off their debts and return to their old jobs. Yvette owns the diner, in the end, but she's still waiting tables and he's still working as a cop.