Something Borrowed, Nothing New, by Josh Long
The landscape of romantic comedy is unfortunately often populated with cinematic dreck. Though we’re treated with the occasional gem, for every When Harry Met Sally there seem to be ten hollow nothing-movies like The Holiday. They shoot for the lowest common denominator, pandering to women the same way T&A sustained action flicks pander to men. Though it’s comforting not to see Nancy Meyers’ name in the credits of Something Borrowed, the promotional campaign may seem all too familiar. Still, the film does manage to reach beyond expectations – slightly.
The story is a basic love triangle. Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) is set to be the maid of honor in her best friend Darcy’s (Kate Hudson) wedding. But Rachel has been harboring a crush on Darcy’s fiancé Dex (Colin Egglesfield as Tom Cruise as Dex as Tom Cruise) since long before the engagement. When she sheepishly reveals her crush to Dex, it leads to an impulsive one night stand, that develops into something more. As their feelings grow, they both have to decide whether their attraction is solid or fleeting, and how to keep from hurting Darcy.
Though the story and film have many flaws, any honest male reviewer has to respect the fact that sometimes women want an easy, fluffy girls-night-out movie. Guys do the same thing, and while we might balk at being dragged to P.S. I Love You, women are equally (and justifiably) incredulous when we insist Predators is a necessary addition to our DVD collection. If you’re looking for a fun movie for a night with girlfriends, this one will suit you just fine, and there are some aspects that may even be rewarding.
The first would be the performances by Ginnifer Goodwin and John Krasinski, as Rachel’s friend and confidante Ethan. Goodwin is able to sell even the most cheese-ball moments and keep our sympathy. We even forget that she’s written as a bit of a drama queen – she complains in the movie at being an “old maid” even though nearly every male character proclaims his love to her at some point. We could hate her for so easily cheating on her best friend, but she plays the conflict well enough to keep us on her side. Krasinski seems more comfortable in his own skin, playing a character that feels a solid distance from “The Office’s” Jim Halpert. He’s still kind of a geek-chic good guy, but he has a sarcastic bite to him, and gets laughs in different ways than Jim might. He’s the source of the most comedy, though the film tries to give us others.
The rest of the comic relief gallery is weak at best. Darcy tries to set Rachel up with Dex’s friend Marcus (Steve Howey) who’s meant to be a lovable rogue and comes off as more of an unwashed, selfish, would-be rapist. Most of the blame here goes to writing instead of performance, but his character certainly elicits more winces than chuckles. Then there’s the vapid, paper-thin Clare (Ashley Williams) who has an unrequited crush on Ethan, and quickly annoys us as much as she seems to annoy him. While meant to bring humor to the story, these supporting characters are more of a waste of time.
Unfortunately, Darcy isn’t much better. She’s a major point of this love triangle, but isn’t given much to develop her point of view. Does she care about Dex? Does she care about Rachel? Or anybody for that matter? She’s written as a pretty terrible person, and we really wonder why on earth she and Rachel are friends. The only basis for their friendship is set up in a painfully expository slide show for Rachel’s 30th birthday. So they were BFFs at 6 – then what? Then nothing, apparently. Darcy is downright mean to Rachel for almost the entire movie. It’s hard to justify Rachel’s sense of duty to a seemingly obligatory friendship. And Dex is only slightly more likeable. He’s attractive, but not so personable. He cheats on Darcy before we’re fifteen minutes into the movie, making him seem more flighty than trustworthy. He’s so on again off again that we never feel confident in his feelings for Rachel.
The film does deserve credit for directly facing the difficult reality of the affair. It could give Rachel an easy out in hiding the affair from Darcy, or making Darcy out to be a horrible witch, unworthy of Dex’s love. But it chooses to truthfully examine how difficult it might be to handle the undoubted emotional strain. Ginnifer Goodwin’s performance makes the conflicts all the more truthful, as she goes back and forth, deciding how she’ll handle things. The good news is that this back and forth keeps us guessing; the bad news is that by the end it’s waffled so much we don’t know which side to take. Do we want them to end up together or not? You might get to the point when both alternatives seem unsatisfactory.
Stylistically the film is more of the same. Some techniques are overly sappy, especially the multiple slow motion flashbacks that are only missing Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Wanna Wait” in the background. There’s a weird dance scene when Rachel and Darcy have a sleepover that makes the movie feel like it’s suddenly become a music video. It’s clearly not meant to be as jarring as it is, and seriously – isn’t America sick of dance montages?
If you’re looking for a movie where you can giggle over first kisses and cry over lost loves, then you might enjoy Something Borrowed. If you’re looking for a movie that’s equally romantic and comedy, this isn’t it. But it shoots for a certain level of depth, and though it might not follow through, it gets us somewhere. When it comes to romantic comedy, you could certainly do worse.