May 05, 2011

Something Borrowed

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A movie review by James Berardinelli



Something Borrowed

ROMANCE/COMEDY:

United States, 2011

U.S. Release Date:

2011-05-06

Running Length:

1:52

MPAA Classification:

PG-13 (Sexual Content, Profanity)

Theatrical Aspect Ratio:

2.35:1

Cast:

Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Egglesfield, John Krasinski, Steve Howey, Ashley Williams

Director:

Luke Greenfield

Screenplay:

Jennie Snyder Urman, based on the novel by Emily Griffin

Cinematography:

Charles Minsky

Music:

Alex Wurman

U.S. Distributor:

Warner Brothers

Subtitles:

none


There are moments - few and far between, admittedly - when Something Borrowed briefly shines. Alas, those isolated instances aside, the movie is largely a waste of time. A tortured romantic comedy constructed on an uncertain foundation of artifice, this adaptation of Emily Griffin's novel routinely fails to escape the decaying orbit of familiar romantic comedy clichés. At the same time, it gives the false impression of somehow being different than and superior to the less sophisticated members of the genre. A successful romantic comedy should offer breezy wish fulfillment as sweet and airy as cotton candy. Something Borrowed is overlong and at times tedious; the taste is gritty and lingers unpleasantly.

Perhaps in the novel, Something Borrowed manages to transcend the genre. Maybe the female friendship between Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Darcy (Kate Hudson) carries equal weight to the tortured soul mate-ship between Rachel and Darcy's groom-to-be, Dex (Colin Egglesfield). One senses that if there was something substantive and believable between Rachel and Darcy, there would be a genuine dilemma for the heroine in her choice: give up Dex and keep her friendship with Darcy, or pursue a romance with Dex and lose Darcy. As it is, however, Darcy is a one-dimensional harpy and, even though Dex is a bland, uninteresting coward, there doesn't seem to be much of a downside to going after the guy.

The backstory informs us that Rachel and Darcy have been bff's since a young age. Now, as both women approach the beginning of their fourth decade on the planet, things are changing. Darcy is marrying Dex, who happens to be Rachel's One True Love. Being the shy, reticent woman she is, Rachel never confessed her feelings to Dex during their years together in law school. If she had, she would have learned that the feeling is mutual. Instead, she introduced Dex to Darcy and the two became an item and are now headed for the altar. Belatedly, Rachel's romantic inclinations have become known to Dex and he is forced to choose between ending his engagement to Darcy and disappointing his parents or "doing his duty." He sleeps with Rachel, presumably as a kind of test drive, but continues to hem and haw about which woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with. Meanwhile, two other characters are in the picture - Ethan (John Krasinski), Rachel's supposedly platonic male friend, and Marcus (Steve Howey), Dex's randy buddy - turning the triangle into a pentagram.

Something Borrowed is littered with weak and annoying characters, making it difficult for the viewer to endure an entire scene without throwing up his/her hands in disgust. Rachel is, in the words of one of her close friends, "pathetic." She has no spine and it's difficult to root for someone who bears a resemblance to an invertebrate. Dex is in many ways a good match for Rachel since he also lacks a backbone but he's also a skunk and a wimp, carrying on a clandestine affair with Rachel while continuing to plan his wedding to Darcy. To keep the one-dimensionally self-absorbed Darcy from being sympathetic on any level, the script has her cheat on Dex, which eliminates any possible reason to think kindly of her. In fact, the only character worth admiring and liking is Ethan, and his role is marginalized. He gets screwed then written out.

Despite being saddled with an annoying character, Ginnifer Goodwin (probably best known as the youngest of the wives on Big Love) almost succeeds in humanizing her. Unfortunately, every time Goodwin wins us to Rachel's side, the script has her do something irritating and the goodwill is lost. Goodwin's co-star, Kate Hudson, impresses as a self-centered bitch, and she's one-dimensional enough to be cartoonishly amusing at times. Colin Egglesfield, whose primary background is in television, looks pretty but doesn't bring much in the way of acting chops to the production. The standout is The Office's John Krasinski, whose yeoman-like performance elevates every sequence in which he appears. This is the second scene-stealing opportunity for the actor, who was also a standout in the better (and funnier) It's Complicated. The best scene in Something Borrowed - the volleyball game - is all Krasinski. Many viewers will leave the theater wishing the movie had been about Ethan. He's the only one who isn't vain, self-absorbed, shallow, impotent, or two-faced.

Director Luke Greenfield has done most of his work on television (although he helmed 2004's The Girl Next Door, an '80s-style romantic comedy about a teenager falling for a porn star who moves in next door), and it shows in the simplicity of his shots. Visually, the movie is dull and repetitive, and its look mirrors its pacing and tone. Something Borrowed is at least 20 minutes too long and it begins to drag noticeably around the halfway point. Chronic indecisiveness might work for Hamlet, but it's inappropriate for a romantic comedy. Perhaps the worst sin, however, is the ending. Despite trying vainly to be upbeat, it carries the unsatisfying stench of something unfinished. If there is a mission statement for any romantic comedy, it's that the fantasy must be fulfilled by the time the end credits roll. Here, that might technically be the case, but many viewers will leave the theater less-than-pleased with the halfhearted and oblique manner in which it is accomplished.

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