Originally published in the Brandeis University Justice
May 24, 2011
Emerging out of the theater, back into the real world, squinting against the forgotten sun is the final element of the movie-going experience. Typically, I leave still focused on the film I just saw, contemplating the ending or reimagining the best moments. However, leaving the theater after viewing Something Borrowed, I had something else on my mind.
I was annoyed, even a little ticked off. Romantic comedies have never been my favorite genre, but normally I just view them as the bits of fluff and fun that they are. Something Borrowed, however, was worse than the average chick flick. It is probably the worst movie I have seen all year.
The movie stars “best friends” Darcy (Kate Hudson) and Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin), women who have known each other since they were in pigtails and braces. Darcy is beautiful in a Barbie-esque, vapid sort of way, and Rachel is made to look like her “shlumpy” brunette counterpart–never mind that Goodwin is in reality beautiful in a high-fashion, quirky sort of way. Her lack of blonde highlights passes for plainness in the Hollywood-created world the characters inhabit.
Darcy is planning her wedding to Dex (Colin Egglesfield), Rachel’s law school classmate and apparently the only guy she’s ever loved, even though that was some years ago. While Rachel and Dex flirted constantly at New York University, neither of them was gutsy enough to make the first move. Then Darcy swooped in, and, the film would have you believe, snatched Dex into her evil clutches, dazzling him with her drunken charm and lack of emotional depth.
However, as the scene actually plays, Darcy dares Dex to ask Rachel out first. When Rachel, the insecure plain Jane that she is, tells Darcy that she and Dex are “just friends,” Darcy takes the opportunity to hit on Dex herself. This isn’t a situation of best friend betrayal; this is a situation of asking your friend’s permission before asking out a guy yourself. Rachel then digs herself deeper into the role of second fiddle by leaving the two alone together. Dex actually comes after her to make sure what is going on is kosher. Rachel gives the relationship her blessing, before bursting into tears as soon as Dex walks away. And Darcy is supposed to be the “man stealer”? I don’t think so.
This is an example of Something Borrowed‘s many problems in character presentation. We are supposed to sympathize with Rachel and view Darcy as a demanding bitch–which, by the way, she totally is. But Darcy, as self-centered and unaware as she is, is never intentionally mean. Yes, she makes everything about herself, even Rachel’s 30th birthday party. But that’s because Rachel never stands up and grabs some of the spotlight for herself. She allows Darcy to be the center of the attention because she doesn’t have the self-esteem to say no. Ultimately, Darcy is Rachel’s own creation–a Frankenstein monster she taught to demand everything because she’s never heard the word no.
This is why, when Rachel and Dex finally reveal their true feelings to one another and begin an affair, I wasn’t impressed by the “love conquers all” reasoning that writer Jennie Snyder uses to make infidelity as romantic as marriage. Rachel had her chance, and she did everything in her power not to take it. Now her best friend is about to be married, and she sees this as the time to take back what’s “hers.” The plot is only complicated by Dex’s inability to choose one woman over the other, though it is clear that Rachel is the better fit. He is just as pathetic as Rachel, stringing both women along as the wedding day looms closer and closer.
The only character who sees any of these romantic entanglements for the immoral messes they are is Ethan (John Krasinski), Rachel and Darcy’s childhood friend. Darcy, for unknown reasons, now thinks she is too cool for Ethan, though he remains Rachel’s other best friend. In the movie’s one redeeming scene, Ethan tries to convince Rachel that both Dex and Darcy continually take advantage of her, and neither one of them is worth her time. Rachel refuses to see reason.
I won’t reveal the ending of Something Borrowed, though suffice to say that it is just as twisted and painful to watch as the rest of the film. What is particularly upsetting about the movie’s failure is how many talented people were involved in its creation. Yes, Hudson’s career has become a list of boring, forgettable chick flicks, but I still hold out hope that she’ll reemerge with a character like Penny Lane from the brilliant Almost Famous, the role that showcased what a force she can be in front of the camera. Likewise, Goodwin was wonderfully naive in the HBO series Big Love, and she also had great moments in Walk the Line and A Single Man. Krasinski, otherwise known as The Office‘s Jim, seems to have the beginnings of a promising film career–if he sticks to innovative, emotionally complex fair like Away We Go rather than License to Wed. Even director Luke Greenfield, who has less than 10 projects to his name, helmed the awesome sleaze-fest The Girl Next Door.
If audiences and critics alike demand more films that showcase what these individuals can do at their best rather than movies that merely show off their pretty faces, maybe we won’t have to sit through another Something Borrowed next summer.