Judge Erich Asperschlager knows he borrowed something from you, but he can't remember what.
"You're not old, you're just a lawyer."
Something Borrowed began as a 2005 novel, written by Emily Giffin. The New York Times bestseller spawned the sequel Something Blue, and now a film adaptation starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Kate Hudson, and John Krasinski, and directed by Luke Greenfield—whose not-so-illustrious resume includes Rob Schneider's The Animal and the Elisha Cuthbert-as-porn star comedy The Girl Next Door.
The film version of Giffin's novel isn't so much a romantic comedy as it is a life drama with a strong female lead. Unlike the book world, where the unfortunately-named "chick lit" genre is big business, movies like this are rare for Hollywood, and usually happen only when someone decides to adapt one of these novels. As such, Something Borrowed likely isn't what moviegoers who haven't read the book might expect it to be, but that's not a bad thing.
Facts of the Case
After her 30th birthday party, Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin, Walk the Line) goes for an impromptu nightcap with her best friend Darcy's (Kate Hudson, Almost Famous) fiance, Dex (Colin Egglesfield, Melrose Place). While reminiscing about their time together in law school, Rachel and Dex admit to unresolved feelings for each other. This emotional complication becomes even more complicated when they wake up in bed together the next morning. Feeling guilty, Rachel turns to friend and co-worker Ethan (John Krasinski, Away We Go) to provide a buffer during a group weekend getaway to the Hamptons, but it's no use. Before long, Dex and Rachel are having an affair that becomes increasingly difficult to keep secret as his wedding day approaches.
In her novel, Emily Giffin (who has a cameo in the movie as a woman in the park), used Rachel and Dex's affair as a way to explore female friendships and the pressures of being a single woman in her 30s. Rachel's conflicted feelings about her relationship with Darcy and getting older don't have as much time to develop in the movie. They are pushed to the background, with the bulk of the story focused on Rachel's forbidden romance with Dex. The end result is a movie with a story that hits the right beats for anyone who has read the book (such as my wife, who helped out with this review), but strains believability for new viewers.
Although it's hard to believe self-centered Darcy and sweet Rachel would actually be friends, it rings true enough for anyone who's had a longtime friend with whom they have little in common. It's actually harder to believe that Darcy and the Dex we see in the movie are dating, let alone engaged. As clueless as men can be, it seems like it would take more to turn Dex from Rachel than a one-time declaration that they are "just friends." Then again, if he'd done the smart thing and pursued her in law school, no one would have made a movie about it. The strength of the movie, as it is in the book, is Rachel. Even if other characters ring hollow, her actions make sense based on her history with Dex and her conflicted friendship with Darcy.
Something Borrowed is an efficient movie, fitting a lot of plot, backstory, and character information into a tidy 112 minutes. It avoids most of the major pitfalls of book adaptations, even if it succumbs to its fair share of movie cliches, including a run through the rain to profess true love, and a few too many musical montages. Still, I give it credit for not being just another formulaic romantic comedy. Even if it never quite sells the relationships the story is about, Something Borrowed is at least willing to let a complicated situation be complicated.
Bringing a major novel to the big screen tends to attract big name stars, and Something Borrowed does a decent job with the actors it has. Kate Hudson subverts her usual bubbly rom-com persona by playing a character who's manipulative, selfish, and shallow. For the most part, though, it's just a different kind of caricature. With the exception of a few well-played dramatic scenes, she's as far from the brilliance she showed in Almost Famous as she's been in just about every movie she's made since. Likewise, Colin Egglesfield never quite breaks free of his eye candy status. His Dex works as a romantic lead mostly because Ginnifer Goodwin is so good. She nails the movie's one crucial character. Her Rachel is grounded and sweet without being a goody-goody. The movie never explains away her bad behavior, but Goodwin make us love Rachel anyway.
Something Borrowed does just as well in the supporting cast. John Krasinski's Ethan is like an urban version of The Office's Jim—a world-weary smart ass who isn't afraid to cut through Rachel's bull. He gets the movie's funniest lines, even if his sidekick story arc includes a painful subplot where he pretends to be gay to avoid the unwanted advances of an starry-eyed acquaintance (Ashley Williams, How I Met Your Mother). Polar opposite to Ethan is the movie's other comic relief character, the cartoonish lothario Marcus (Steve Howey, Reba).
The movie may be a mixed bag, but I have no complaints about the way Something Borrowed looks on Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 AVC-encoded transfer is pretty darn gorgeous, maintaining the warmth of film without succumbing to edge enhancement, noise reduction, or any of the current tricks of the Hollywood trade. Detail is razor sharp throughout, even in shadows. Skin tones are natural with colors that pop, especially during the gang's frequent Hampton getaways. The DTS-HD Master Audio track is just as impressive, with well-balanced dialogue, music, and directional effects that include, but are not limited to, Kate Hudson sex noises.
For fans of the book and movie, Something Borrowed comes with a slew of fluffy bonus features, in HD:
"Something…Old?" (3:50) is a series of soundbites about what it means to turn 30, with the cast, director, Giffin, and co-producers Hilary Swank and Molly Mickler-Smith.
"On Location Tours with Emily Giffin" (4:51): Less a making of doc than a featurette following the author from The Today Show to a bus filled with fans on a tour of places in New York where the movie was filmed.
"Marcus' Guide to the Ladies" (6:41): The movie's least interesting character gets the longest bonus feature—an overstuffed, but often funny, infomercial covering the beefcake's best tricks for scoring.
"What is Something Borrowed?" (1:46) and "Inside Something Borrowed" (2:31) are brief promos for the movie that cover very similar ground.
"Left Off the Guest List" (7:38): Four deleted scenes, including a quick Darcy-Rachel exchange outside the dress shop, a failed nighttime rendezvous between Dex and Rachel in the Hamptons, Rachel sharing a childhood story about Ethan, and a follow up with Ethan and Rachel in London.
Gag Reel (5:34): Do you really need me to tell you what a gag reel is?
Something Borrowed makes the transition from novel to big screen with most of its charm intact. Although there's not quite enough here to recommend to anyone who hasn't read the book, fans of Emily Giffin will enjoy spending time with the characters they love.
Worth borrowing, at the very least. Not guilty!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Deleted Scenes
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