The winter downtime is over, and the summer ramps up with the first romantic comedy of the year — Something Borrowed — and a solid beginning it is. Sweet and funny, it may not be the deepest or most nuanced story in the world, but it’s pleasantly satisfying and endearing.
Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Darcy (Kate Hudson) grew up as childhood friends. They shared everything, including their date to the sixth-grade dance, Ethan (John Krasinski). And then on to Indiana University together, and New York City, where Rachel went to NYU Law and Darcy did something unspecified.
It was there, in her torts class, that Rachel met Dex (Colin Egglesfield). She was immediately smitten, but true to her wallflower nature she held back. Darcy, however, was never the shy sort, and she jumped on Dex the first time they met.
Now, six years later, Rachel is turning 30 and Darcy is about to marry Dex. It would be sort of wistfully sad — another in what’s surely a long line of such might-have-beens for Rachel — if it weren’t for the fact that Dex had his own crush on Rachel back in law school, and this all comes out with two months until the wedding.
The story unfolds over the summer, split about evenly between their New York City haunts and a rented summer home in Southampton, shared also with the colossal douchebag friend of Dex’s, Marcus (Steve Howey), and Claire (Ashley Williams) whose relation to the rest of the group is never quite clear beyond an unrequited obsession she has with Ethan.
Like all good romantic comedies, Something Borrowed is ultimately an exercise in wish-fulfillment. In the real world, the people we dote on from afar rarely return the sentiment. Even if they do, second chances are even fewer and further between. Reality is more about regrets; wishing you had the chance to do things over again; and carrying that regret with you into the future, sadder but wiser. But wouldn’t it just be so nice if for once we got that chance? for once to be able to make up for what we screwed up so long ago? This is exactly the chance Rachel gets, and we hope she manages to do better this time.
That all said, it isn’t quite so simple. It’s not just about her and her past with Dex, but about her relationship with Darcy. As different as these two are, Rachel and Darcy have known each other basically forever, and that’s not something that should be lightly tossed aside. Rachel can’t just play mercenary and go after what she wants in the moment without potentially sacrificing one of the most important people in her life. This is where the movie lifts itself above the standard love-triangle structure and becomes something interesting. And it’s unusual to see a movie — even one targeted at women — that actually seems to have realistic relationships between its female characters, depressing as that is.
Still, it’s a pretty straightforward story; nothing extraordinary. It’s a little overlong in the middle, the whole bit with Dex’s parents could be cut without looking back, and there really aren’t any particular surprises. There was a particularly disappointing bit where they missed the chance to escape the Pretty in Pink ending, which would have been a greatly interesting turn, but ultimately they do have to keep to the plot of Emily Giffin’s novel.
Goodwin is naturally adorable, and Hudson does a good job of varying her standard character into someone a little less likable. Krasinski brings his usual Krasinski-schtick, and Egglesfield is his usual eye-candy. The hidden gem is actually Howey; I absolutely despised the character, but as an actor he completely owned the part and kept it from being completely one-dimensional. I’d love to see what he can do with a more sympathetic character, assuming that this isn’t basically all he’s good at playing.
By the time the credits roll — including an unexpected teaser for a possible sequel — everyone has ended up pretty much where we’d expected them to since the beginning. It’s a fun little ride to get there, though, with warm, human characters and a story that may be composed of cookie dough, but wasn’t formed with a cookie cutter.
Worth It: yes.
Bechdel Test: pass.