Theatrical Review: SOMETHING BORROWED
Writers: Jennie Snyder (screenplay), Emily Giffin (novel)
Director: Luke Greenfield
Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Egglesfield, John Krasinski
Studio: Warner Bros.
Based on the best-selling book from chick lit author Emily Giffin, SOMETHING BORROWED may look like another innocuous entry into the romantic comedy world, a mix of pretty people in an en vogue New York City location, shaken up by some fundamentally petty and self-created problems, two hours of eye candy. But SOMETHING BORROWED is not innocuous and it’s the sort of candy that will rot not just your teeth, a dangerous exercise in showing just how much pain people can inflict on people they say they love, all in service to a “story” so deeply upsetting as to be actually revolting.
The plot is simple enough – Darcy (Kate Hudson) is a flighty party girl, Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) is a career-driven sad sack, but despite those differences, they have been best friends since childhood. Rachel is also responsible for introducing Darcy to Dex (Colin Egglesfield) Rachel’s law school study buddy that Darcy is now engaged to. In the weeks leading up to Darcy and Dex’s wedding, Rachel’s long-buried love for Dex comes to light, and the two embark on an affair, a disgusting deception somehow meant to pull at the audience’s heartstrings.
The problem with films like SOMETHING BORROWED is that they compartmentalize women - Rachel can be cute and smart, but she cannot be sexy and fun. Darcy can dance around on tables, but she’s not allowed to have complex emotions. Darcy even goes so far as to announce "I'm fun!" when she meets Dex. You are a Cute or you are a Pretty. You are a Smart or you are a Fun. The only thing that Rachel and Darcy seem to have in common is that they are both just really terrible people, albeit in different ways. Rachel and Darcy are both startlingly inept when it comes to truly loving people. Darcy is the sort of person that thinks that constantly proclaiming “I love you!” to the people in her life is equivalent to actually going through the process of loving them. Rachel is the sort of person who thinks that for others in her life to be happy, she has to forfeit her own dreams. Again, these are terrible, damaged people.
Of course, SOMETHING BORROWED tries to layer on the complications - pumping up the emotions between Rachel and Dex, adding in some twisty familial obligations, and dousing the entire thing with a series of shoddily-shot memories and flashbacks, all in service to making us “understand” that what’s going on here is “okay.” It is not okay. Just because Darcy is a bitch and incredibly self-involved, does she deserve what she gets? SOMETHING BORROWED routinely tries to trick its audience into not only thinking what’s going on with Rachel and Dex is okay, but that it is preferable to the current situation.
Hudson’s portrayal of Darcy is that of a monster. We are meant to hate her. We are meant to think that, somehow, all of the terrible things Darcy has done mean that it’s acceptable when she’s on the receiving end of the bad stuff. But it simply doesn’t shake – Darcy is allowed to do bad things and participate in really bad behavior because no one has ever tried to rein her in (certainly not Rachel or Dex). Rachel and Dex, on the other hand, are “the smart ones” and they know full well what they are doing. Make no mistake, you can set their situation to an up-tempo Natasha Bedingfield track and have the two of them make googly eyes at each other on a rooftop, but that doesn’t for one second change the fact that this film is about people who hurt each other and deceive each other and think that’s all okay because of some cosmic tally of bad deeds that “even out.”
Ginnifer Goodwin attacks the role with her standard pluck, but there’s simply no saving Rachel. Egglesfield is basically good-looking wallpaper, all of his charm resting on his ability to smile at the right moment and to look appropriately wistful when he’s supposed to be feeling emotions. The film also throws a womanizer and a manhungry lady into the character pool just for laughs. Hilarious.
The single ray of light in this entire revolting battlefield of emotional warfare is John Krasinski as Rachel’s best male friend Ethan, who is the only person who sees through all of the BS inherent in the situation and its players and isn't afraid to fess up to his feelings when it’s both right and time. The only real problem with Ethan is that he’s friends with these people. Krasinski also delivers the sagest (and funniest) line in the entire film – when describing a weekend in the Hamptons, he calls it “a zombie movie directed by Ralph Lauren.” Certainly, SOMETHING BORROWED is capable of eating your brain (and your heart and your soul and your hard-earned movie cash).
The film is also a technical mess - muddled with sloppy fades and dissolves between scenes, some wonky slow motion, what can only be stock footage to establish location, and phoned-in lensing of every romantic comedy cliché you’ve ever seen (running in the rain! Kissing in the street! I hate everything about this film!).
But, really, SOMETHING BORROWED is one thing more than all the others (more than revolting or terrifying or upsetting or weak or stupid or just awful), it’s sad. It’s sad that female relationships are still seen as background distraction on the road to “true love.” It’s sad that women have to be shoved into different boxes for cinematic representation. It’s sad that a central relationship can be blown to holy hell and the audience is supposed to feel good about it. It’s sad that the end-all and be-all is still “girl gets boy,” even when both that girl and that boy deserve nothing less than to be alone.
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