May 5, 2011

SOMETHING BORROWED: The Weekend’s Not-Thor


Watch it At Home;  Something Acceptable.
As romantic comedies with Kate Hudson go, SOMETHING BORROWED isn’t so bad.  After her spectacular debut in Almost Famous, Hudson’s become something of a brand name for dreadful rom-coms that nevertheless make money (How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days, You, Me & Dupree, Fool’s Gold, My Best Friend’s Girl and Bride Wars are among her milestones), getting to the point where you might want to groan just seeing her face in a trailer.  In recent years she’s tried to branch out a bit with The Killer Inside Me and Nine, neither of which worked out too well at the boxoffice.  In Something Borrowed, she relinquishes the leading role to Ginnifer Goodwin (although she still takes first billing), opting for the more colorful foil part, and she seems as relieved as we are that she isn’t the one pining for true love.
In Something Borrowed, based by Jennie Urman Snyder on Emily Giffin’s novel, Goodwin plays Rachel, whose life is essentially defined by two relationships:  her childhood best-friendship with Darcy (Hudson) and her romantic longing for Dex (Colin Egglesfield–his name is like a James Ivory wet dream), whom she met and fatally introduced to Darcy when they were in law school.  (Also she has her confidant friend Ethan (John Krasinski), who behaves so much like the “gay best friend” in old movies, it seems odd that he’s heterosexual.)  Rachel, who never stands up for herself and has always let the boisterous, self-centered Darcy take the lead, allows Dex to slip through her fingers when Darcy shows some flirtatious interest in him, and now Darcy and Dex are engaged and Rachel is vastly exceeding her quota of longing looks.  But one night a drunken, self-pitying Rachel reveals her pent-up feelings to Dex, and it turns out he feels the same way, and–welcome to the plot.  From then on, it’s a mix of farce–Rachel, Dex, Darcy and Ethan all share a Hamptons summer house, where everyone has something to hide and Darcy is trying to fix Rachel up with hunky idiot Marcus (Steve Howey)–and low-boil drama, as Rachel tries to come to terms with her feelings about Dex and Darcy.

Movies like this aren’t really about their storylines, which tend not to hold up to much examination.  They work (or don’t) based on style and charm.  Here, Luke Greenfield (he directed The Girl Next Door, the picture that featured Elisha Cuthbert as a porn star but was mostly notable for Timothy Olyphant’s turn as the villain) handles the cast well and keeps the train moving.  Goodwin is an enormously appealing actress, who as viewers of “Big Love” know is capable of much more than the wet-eyed, adoring glances and anxious tics asked of her here; after this and He’s Just Not That Into You, she needs to diversify before she falls into Hudson’s trap of becoming her own cliche.  Krasinski is the funniest person on screen, just as he was in It’s Complicated; is there some Hollywood conspiracy keeping him from leading man roles?  Hudson, taken in small doses, is perfectly good as the monstrous Darcy.  (She and Goodwin have a late-night dance bit that makes you wish the movie would spin off its rom-com axis and take some risks.)  Egglesfield is somewhat a block of wood as Dex, which isn’t unusual for the love object in these movies, but makes the very conventional ending feel even more dull.  
The one thing that’s slightly refreshing about Something Borrowed is that none of its characters behave well; even our heroine is trying to steal her best friend’s fiancee, however she may rationalize it.  There are even brief moments when the movie reaches for a taste of Woody Allen-ish emotional complexity… until it remembers its target audience.  In the end, it’s just counter-programming, a little summery romance and laughter to balance the mighty hammer blows of Thor‘s opening weekend.  As the parade of 3D summer action spectacles commences, though, a Kate Hudson comedy that’s bearable is a special effect that shouldn’t be too lightly dismissed.
(SOMETHING BORROWED – Warner Bros – 110 minutes – PG 13 – Director:  Luke Greenfield –  Script:  Jennie Urman Snyder, based on the novel by Emily Giffin – Cast:  Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Eggleston, John Krasinski, Steve Howey, Ashley Williams – Wide Release)    

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."