Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Something Dreadful

Yes, I actually watched Something Borrowed.

Okay, okay, get it all out. Back with us? Good for you. I often catch flak for seeing movies that everyone just assumes are bad, and this title is no exception. Yes, I've seen real travesties like Sucker Punch and Red Riding Hood. The former is a good example of a film I had high hopes for, even with seemingly obvious warning signs that should have tipped me off to the war crimes that waited me. In the latter's case, I often know exactly what I'm getting into, and that must confound people to no end, because they won't stop talking about how I reviewed a bad film. The perceived quality is never really in consideration when I decide to see a specific film, however. What I want to discover by watching most movies is to gain an understanding of what the thought process is behind their beginnings. Every film you've seen - and a good many you haven't - was created with the simple idea that SOMEONE would want to sit down and watch it. In 2010 I saw the hokey and profoundly bad The Warrior's Way, which at one point was making less money than the limited-release Black Swan despite being shown in about fifty times as many theaters. Even bombs like that were initially meant to appeal to viewers, and some corporate exec in Hollywood greenlit the concept, never once thinking that he or she was eventually going to cost his production company millions of dollars on a bad deal. So when I pay to see a film (at half price matinees, mind you; I'm a fan of the arts, not STUPID) I am completely okay with the idea that it might be horrid because that means I can understand the thoughts and flaws of the people who make the movies we all make time to enjoy once in a while. I don't see films because they are good or bad; I see them because they ARE, and with my friend The Opinioness (who wrote her own review of the film) I sat through a bad movie and don't at all regret it.

Blonde or brunette? So difficult to choose...
In this latest adaptation of the bestselling novel of the same name, Something Borrowed introduces us to Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin), a lawyer celebrating her thirtieth birthday with her best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson) and a room full of people who we don't know and never see again. After a night full of celebratory cocktails, Rachel has one last drink with Dex (Colin Egglesfield), Darcy's fiance and the man Rachel has had a crush on since meeting him in law school. One drunken confession leads to the two waking up next to one another in bed. Now Rachel must decide whether to pursue this romantic entanglement at the expense of her friendship with Darcy. Hilarity ensues.

Aaand... BAM! Now she looks 50.
If it wasn't for the fact that the story was based on a book generally considered mindless even by the standards of its fans, I would make sure Jenny Snyder never wrote another screenplay. As it stands, the woman who wrote for such female-centric shows as Gilmore Girls, Lipstick Jungle, and Hope & Faith was probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The real villain here is book author Emily Giffin, who for some reason tells a story of infidelity and betrayal and tries to get us the root for the bad guys. Okay, to be fair, there are really no "bad" people in this story. As much as you think you would hate Rachel for wanting to steal Dex away from Darcy, she at least makes a show of not WANTING to want to steal him away. That doesn't really make up for Giffin's idea that its okay to cheat and steal when Soul Mates are involved. You may have heard of this typical guy code: "Bros before hos." Crass, yes, but the idea of guys sticking to their friendships instead of screwing their buddies over and breaking promises for any woman is as honest an endeavor as I can imagine. You would imagine women to have a similar philosophy, but this film would have you believe that everything Sex and the City told you was a lie. Almost from the beginning, Rachel's meekness and questioning personality is pitted against Darcy's flamboyance and exuberance (yes, it really is that cliche), and neither really gets that revelation that perhaps their lifelong friendship is worth more than the affections of some guy.

Yes, John Krasinski is here. He is wonderful
If there was one place that had to succeed in order to make up for the magnitude of mire that sinks this film, it would be the acting and character interaction. Character depth is sadly lacking, as the two leads are one-dimensional and of course take up the majority of the film's screen time. Goodwin is cheery and just good enough to pull off the lead role, but you have to imagine any complexity to he part would have gone right over her head. There's simply not enough for her to do to showcase her talents, as Rachel mainly just repeats the word "Stop" to people (who promptly don't) and vacillates between happiness with Dex and guilt over what she's doing to Darcy. Speaking of Darcy, I can't decide if Kate Hudson is putting on a great performance or a terrible one. After breaking out in her award-winning Almost Famous, she basically does the same things (being loud, daring and foul-mouthed) that she does in every romantic comedy she's in, and acting drunk on screen doesn't seem to be too difficult to her. Darcy's apparent alcoholism is unexplored in the film (as is everything else about her), and Hudson doesn't do the character any favors by playing it safe.

Goodwin and Krasinski argue as to who will have the worse film career
In a film geared towards women, why are the most compelling characters the men? Egglesfield gets a nice, meaty role that more than makes up for getting kicked off the set of Melrose Place back in '99. Once known as the most successful abortion on daytime television's All My Children, Egglesfield actually gets some depth to his role as Dex, or at least much more than the two leads can combine. Dex actually has issues! Dex has a mother suffering from depression! Dex has huge expectations from his father that he struggles to meet! Frankly, Dex is almost as much the center of the film as he is to Rachel, and that is to Egglesfield's benefit more any anybody else. Really, he's a character you feel bad for one moment, and roundly hate the next, while liking him again not too far in the future. He still isn't explored enough as a character, but at least he gets the most of this bunch. If Egglesfield is the center, however, then that must make John Krasinski the heart, as he plays the friend of both ladies while mentoring Rachel about what she needs to do. Krasinski simply MAKES the movie, and it would be a sad place indeed if Something Borrowed were to exist without him. Every line is perfectly delivered, every joke expertly told, and every reason to want to like this film exist solely in Krasinski's portrayal of Ethan, Rachel's gay best friend who's not actually gay. As the film's main shot at redemption, Ethan as a character could probably headline his own film, and I'd hope anyone who missed his best theatrical release Away We Go would sit through that.

Not quite as much plastic as mom, but working on it!
Don't expect a Top 10 rating from this film; Something Borrowed simply doesn't have enough to make for even an interesting diversion. It does do a few things right, most notably the casting of Krasinski and at least a semblance of honest dilemma among the dramatics. There is also a very competitive badminton game that livens things up leading to the film's final act. Those items prevent the film from being completely unwatchable, but the shallow story and characters have no growth to them, and we never really learn why the hell Rachel and Darcy ever lasted as best friends for so long in the first place. Meant as a mindless vehicle for people who don't want to think so much, Something Borrowed is an insult to any woman whose life doesn't revolve around marriage and finding "Mr. Right." See it at your brain cells' detriment.

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