Something Borrowed is a middling, modern, mainstream romantic comedy like most of the others: The characters are young and attractive. It's set amid the yuppie affluence of upper Manhattan. The comic relief is broad. The ending is tidy.
Memphis native Ginnifer Goodwin (best known for HBO's Big Love) is hard-working, single attorney Rachel. As she celebrates her 30th birthday, Rachel also is bracing herself for the impending nuptials of longtime best friend, bubbly, über-blonde Darcy (Kate Hudson) to law-school buddy Dex (Colin Egglesfield), for whom she's long harbored a silent crush.
Circling this core trio are a second trio of secondary characters: Ethan (John Krasinski) is an aspiring novelist who becomes Rachel's confidant — and the audience's representative — when things get complicated. In a would-be comic but instead uncomfortable sideplot, Ethan is deflecting the unwanted attentions of Claire (Ashley Williams), another "party girl" whom he slept with once. Claire is matched by Marcus (Steve Howey), a "cave man" friend of the groom who comes across like a one-man beer commercial.
In a movie that too often compartmentalizes what passes for comedy and seriousness, these two trios can be subdivided into characters and caricatures: Claire, Marcus, and even Darcy are cardboard, comic functionaries. These two female roles are thankless, especially Hudson, whose performance is at times uncomfortable. And Howey seems mostly to provide crass one-liners and sight gags — and a final escape-hatch plot twist.
Meanwhile, the audience is meant to identify with the emotional complications of the other three characters, an overlapping love triangle that breaks down in Pretty in Pink fashion: Goodwin is Molly Ringwald, Egglesfield is Andrew McCarthy, and Krasinski is Jon Cryer's Duckie. Krasinski is the most likable presence on screen, but the script doesn't utilize his warm, welcoming charms well enough, leaving him without the kind of solo showcase and audience sympathy he might have.
Goodwin is game and pulls off a familiar part as the "plain" girl breaking out of her shell. She makes it work even when the movie pushes her into groan-worthy clichés: How about an impromptu but choreographed pajama-party hip-hop dance sequence? To "Push It"! (There is, however, no singing into hairbrushes; there are some lines Something Borrowed will not cross.)
The film may be asking too much, however, by having her fall hard for the handsome cipher Dex rather than the more engaging, also handsome Ethan. McCarthy/Cryer, we could understand. But Egglesfield comes across as an honors graduate from the Dermot Mulroney School of Bland Rom-Com Leading Men.
By the end, the film seems so uncertain about how to land that the plot loops the runway a few times too many, leaving you — as in so many similar contemporary films — wishing that the few workable actor/character combos (i.e., Goodwin and Krasinski) had been given a better movie to work with.
Opening Friday, May 6th