With Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, Colin Egglesfield, John Krasinski, Steve Howey; Directed by Luke Greenfield; Rated PG-13 (for sexual content including dialogue, and some drug material); 103 minutes.
If you look at the romantic comedies of the 1930s Hollywood was churning out one classic after another: “It Happened One Night,” “The Awful Truth,” “My Man Godfrey,” “Bringing Up Baby” and many others. Even the ones that weren’t classics were often pretty good. With all these examples to choose from, why is it that contemporary filmmakers can’t get it right? SOMETHING BORROWED is actually one of the better of the recent examples, especially compared with the likes of “Hall Pass” and the “Arthur” remake. Yet by deciding that this was a “chick flick,” the filmmakers treated the male characters as badly as women are often portrayed in male-oriented action movies: as eye candy or comic relief.
Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) turns 30 at the start of the film. Her best friend from childhood is Darcy (Kate Hudson), a raging egomaniac who truly loves both Rachel and Dex (Colin Egglesfield), Darcy’s fiancé. Therein lies the rub. Darcy is consumed with planning her wedding to Dex, whom she met through Rachel, but it turns out that Rachel had a crush on Dex in law school. When Hurricane Darcy swept in, Rachel simply stood aside. Had this been played as a melodrama, the conflict between Rachel and Darcy might strike some sparks, especially after Rachel spends the night with Dex.
However this is a comedy, so instead we get several goofy friends to complicate matters with John Krasinski nearly stealing the picture as Ethan. What might have kicked this up a notch would have been actually making us care about Dex and Ethan instead of making one a mannequin and the other simply a sounding board for Rachel. Consciously or not, the filmmakers have followed the path of “When Harry Met Sally” in making sure the action is solely about romantic entanglements and all the settings are restaurants, bars, and parties. We know Sally and Dex are lawyers but have no idea what sort of work either one does. Is she with a big law firm? aA public defender’s office? We’re never told, and we know even less about Dex except that his parents (Geoff Pierson and Jill Eikenberry struggling with barely-sketched in roles) are still involved in his life.
All that is not to say the film is without its charms. Darcy on a tear about her wedding plans is infinitely more amusing than anything in the upcoming “Bridesmaids,” and a killer badminton game (!) involving Ethan and Dex may be the highlight of the movie. Ultimately we become less concerned with whom Darcy and Rachel end up with than in whether their friendship will endure, which reduces Dex to the position of the token going to the winner.
Kate Hudson does her best work in ages as Darcy, making her someone who can be annoying one moment and endearing the next. It’s a tight-wire act, because if Darcy is a monster, we would be wondering what Rachel and Dex saw in her. Likewise, Ginnifer Goodwin gets her best movie role to date, even if she is far too good-looking for the “ugly duckling” role. The rest of the cast does what they can, with Krasinski coming off best and Egglesfield at least looking attractive. Compared to last year’s “Sex and the City 2,” this is a breath of fresh, sassy air. For those who enjoy the great romantic comedies, though, “Something Borrowed” hasn’t borrowed enough.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books, the most recent being Jar Jar Binks Must Die… And Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies. He teaches film at Suffolk University and lives in Somerville.