Film Review: Romcom 'Something Borrowed' has oddly noir vibe

Colin Egglesfield (from left), Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson  star in the film adaptation of the best-selling novel  'Something Borrowed' by Emily Giffin.

David Lee/Warner Bros.

Colin Egglesfield (from left), Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson star in the film adaptation of the best-selling novel "Something Borrowed" by Emily Giffin.

Like a caramel glaze on a rotten apple, the glossy sheen that represents the house style of Alcon Entertainment ("The Blind Side") can't quite sugarcoat the duplicity and betrayal at the center of "Something Borrowed," a so-called romantic comedy populated by characters who are cute and charming, yes, but also self-centered and two-faced.

Rachel is a talented attorney at a top New York law firm, a generous and loyal friend and, unhappily, still single -- as her engaged ...

Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, and some drug material

Length: 103 minutes

Released: May 6, 2011 Nationwide

Cast: Kate Hudson, Ginnfer Goodwin, John Krasinski, Colin Egglesfield, Steve Howey

Director: Luke Greenfield

Writer: Jennie Urman, Jordan Roberts

More info and showtimes »

The tension between the film's happy public surface -- the generic pop songs that spackle over the transitions and montages; the alluring images of beautiful young people in beautiful places -- and the thorny realism of its interior themes of guilt and deception gives "Something Borrowed" a weird sort of kick, a seemingly unintentional "romcom noir" distinctiveness.

When a comic supporting character played by John Krasinski of "The Office" advises the heroine to go ahead and steal her best friend's boyfriend, he delivers a line that would be right at home in the most cynical film noir or heist film: "You're all going to hell, anyway, so do something for yourself." Screenwriter Jennie Snyder offers another auto-critique of the material and the characters that inhabit it when the droll Krasinski -- heading for a weekend getaway with the story's uneasy group of friends -- quips: "The Hamptons are like a zombie movie directed by Ralph Lauren." And yet there's the Krasinski character, on the beach with the rest of the expensively dressed undead horde, as if motivated by -- to quote George Romero's "Dawn of the Dead" -- "some kind of instinct."

Adapted from the best-seller by Emily Giffin and produced by Memphian Molly Mickler Smith for Alcon and her own 2S Films company, "Something Borrowed" represents a sort of starring-role coming-out party for another native Memphian, Ginnifer Goodwin, who is second-billed to Kate Hudson but actually is required to carry the film.

Instantly likable, the almost elfin Goodwin plays Rachel, an unassuming and apparently unlucky-in-love New York lawyer who is preparing for her role as bridesmaid in the imminent wedding ceremony of her lifelong best friend, Darcy (Hudson), a demanding, show-off party girl who even hogs the spotlight at Rachel's 30th birthday party.

Darcy is set to marry Dex (young Tom Cruise look-alike Colin Egglesfield), whom moviegoers may judge to be as spineless as he is handsome. When a liquor-fueled one-night stand between Rachel and Dex leads to a full-blown affair, Rachel realizes she's in love, and Dex says he is, too; yet he refuses to call off the wedding.

Rachel is torn between her loyalty to her selfish and arguably undeserving friend and what might be called her loyalty to herself. Is she more of a hypocrite if she denies herself a chance at happiness, or if she continues her affair with Dex? Does love justify all? Does Darcy deserve to be betrayed?

Darcy may be a head case, but she's not a villain; in a moving sleep-over sequence (complete with a Salt-N-Pepa-scored dance scene that gives Goodwin and Hudson a chance to bust a move), the film demonstrates that Rachel and Darcy have a genuine, even loving friendship. This makes Rachel's dilemma even more problematic. We cheer for Rachel, even as we question her choices.

The irresponsibility and moral malingering of the characters would not be out of place in a serious drama or art film, nor would they be unforgivable in real life; but this behavior is off-putting in a commercial, theoretically escapist romantic comedy -- in part because director Luke Greenfield ("The Girl Next Door") stages the action with a shrewd breeziness intended to camouflage the more nettlesome aspects of the story from the film's target demographic. This disconnect leads to an ending that is surprising (for those who haven't read the book) but also unsatisfying, especially as the script (unlike the book) works overtime to set up a potential alternate romantic destiny for Rachel.

-- John Beifuss: 529-2394

© 2011 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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