Monday night I had the opportunity to attend a free preview screening of the new chick flick Something Borrowed, which goes into wide release this Friday. The movie trailer made this look like a romantic comedy in the vein of The Wedding Planner (which is a favorite of mine), and when free passes are thrown into the equation I was more than happy to check it out. I really wish I had read or investigated the Emily Giffin novel upon which this film is based prior to seeing the movie, because I think if my expectations had been adjusted I wouldn’t be quite so conflicted about it. This is not a movie that has improved in my thoughts as time goes by – so you get this post. Be ye warned. :)
Basically, Something Borrowed is a messy story about messy people messing up each other’s lives. The crux of the story involves the complicated intricacies (and potentially toxic nature) of female friendships, particularly when the “balance of power” is heavily tilted in favor of one person in the equation over the other. Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Darcy (Kate Hudson) are life-long best friends. Rachel is bookish and serious and grounded, while Darcy is flighty and fun and self-absorbed (or the Hollywood stereotypes of brunette vs. blonde). Rachel has always given way to the force of Darcy’s overwhelming personality, to the point where she gave up her best friend from law school, Dex (the delicious Colin Egglesfield), with nary a word because she was too afraid of confessing her feelings for him. Thus an open door for Darcy, who promptly snatches him up, and six years later with a wedding in the offing it looks as though Rachel has lost her shot at true love and must settle into life as Darcy’s “yes woman” best friend.
But the status quo gets a MAJOR shake-up after Rachel’s “surprise” 30th birthday party, where she gets some one-on-one time with Dex and the two end up sleeping together. MAJOR guilt trip ensues, but beyond the thought of betraying her best friend is the exhilaration of finally acting on her feelings, and tantalizing glimpses that Dex is just as rattled and intrigued by the encounter as her.
So from here the film progresses into a series of scenes dealing with will-they-or-won’t-they confess, how can they keep Darcy from learning the truth, and how can they make this relationship work without fracturing their friendships. I know, I KNOW I’m probably oversimplifying things here. But it really grated on me when Rachel and Dex kept seeing each other, and it got worse when Rachel was forced to continually put up with Dex playing both sides of the fence, so to speak, and refusing to CHOOSE - and she kept allowing this continue – that got old FAST.
It’s not that I am entirely opposed to stories where a couple, clearly ill-suited to each other but a couple nonetheless, break up with each other because one or both parties involved meet new people. That’s why, I suppose, The Wedding Planner works for me. I would MUCH rather a couple break up BEFORE they “tie the knot,” as they do in TWP, than repeatedly cheat on their significant other all in the name of “making up their minds.” At least in TWP, Mary (Jennifer Lopez) and Steve (Matthew McConaughey) TRY to do the right thing and act honorably, and manage to refrain from acting on their attraction to each other until Steve breaks it off with his fiancée for good. If nothing else Something Borrowed made me really appreciate the restraint in a film like The Wedding Planner.
The characters in Something Borrowed don’t even try to act honorably for most of the film. Rachel and Dex move far past the “mistake” of sleeping with each other once and spend a holiday weekend together – while he’s still engaged – to see if this “thing” between the two of them has a future. Yes, isn't that the time to test the waters of a new relationship, while one party is still engaged? *sigh* And I won’t even get started on how Darcy is far, FAR from an innocent victim in all of this. Too many selfish people acting like jerks in the name of love kill any potential this story had for me to meaningfully – or even interestingly – look at the complexities of Darcy and Rachel’s friendship and its ramification on their lives. And the potential was THERE!
That said, believe it or not I didn’t hate absolutely everything about this movie. ;) Ginnifer Goodwin, apparently best known for her role in the HBO series Big Love (which I’ve never seen BTW) has an engaging, relatable screen presence that makes me desperately wish she’d had a better story to work with. While I had problems with almost all of the characters in this film, I – and I think many women – will find a lot to relate to in Rachel and her emotional turmoil, and Goodwin is achingly relatable on that front. Colin Egglesfield is an absolute DREAM, and I can only hope that the next time he gets the chance to appear in a romantic comedy someday in the future where his character has more backbone and moral fortitude. And Kate Hudson was excellent as Darcy. In fact, it’s a bit disturbing how well she brought the selfish twit to life. ;)
The biggest surprise of the movie for me was John Krasinski’s character and one of Rachel’s closest friends, Ethan. He was HILARIOUS. In fact, there was a moment where I thought the film was going to see his role take prominence on-screen, only to end up disappointed – because Ethan, while certainly not perfect, is a shining example in this movie of selflessness and friendship that was like water in a wasteland. Really I just wanted a movie with Ethan as the main character - Krasinski stole every scene he appeared in.
Real life is messy, I get that. I also confess to a general bias in favor of happily-ever-after, everyone gets some measure of resolution when it comes to chick flicks. Something Borrowed had the potential to, I think, meaningfully explore the intricacies of heartfelt but imbalanced friendships, but thanks to the wishy-washy tendencies of the leads falls short. I just wish that the story had given us leads worth cheering for because you really felt they tried, at the very least – that were relatable because they were nice and wanted to do the right thing, instead of constantly falling into the trap of being selfish jerks. I’m convinced - hopeful, at least - that the messiness of life can be dealt with in a more meaningful way on film, instead of a movie like this that fosters the idea that casual hook-ups and willful deception are the way to go in carving out one's romantic future.