Note: In the following joint Blu-ray review, both John and Michael comment on the film, with John also writing up the Video, Audio, Extras, and Parting Shots.
The Film According to John:
The subject for today is the romantic comedy, or "romcom" (aka "RomCom," "rom-com," "Rom-Com") as people affectionately call it anymore. The term "romcom" is apparently meant to differentiate it from other cinematic genres, like "sci-fi." I mean, many's the time a woman has dragged an unsuspecting husband or boyfriend to a "romcom" under the pretense of its being "sci-fi," the poor man waiting in vain for a spaceship to land or a head to explode. No more.
The romcom, of course, should include two primary ingredients: romance and comedy. Which is where 2011's "Something Borrowed" fails to hold up its part of the bargain. It's neither romantic nor comedic. Sort of defeats the whole point of the exercise, you know?
Kate Hudson stars in this one, about the only name many of us will recognize. Luke Greenfield directed it, and he has maybe a couple of titles in his resume you might know--"The Animal" and "The Girl Next Door"--but they're titles you might know for all the wrong reasons. The rest of the cast members are mainly of the TV variety--Ginnifer Goodwin, Colin Egglesfield, Steve Howey, Ashley Williams. Since I don't watch a lot of commercial television, these names were largely foreign to me.
So, basically, what we've got in "Something Borrowed" is a formulaic, TV-type movie. To expect anything more would be unfair to the film.
My colleague Michael will go into more detail about the plot, so I'll just sum things up in an overview. There are these two best friends from childhood, see, Rachel (Goodwin) and Darcy (Hudson), both of them pretty, but one of them, Darcy, more outgoing and the other, Rachel, more shy and accommodating. Now, here's the thing: Although they are both pretty, Rachel has a massive inferiority complex and doesn't think she's attractive. As a result, she always feels as though she's in Darcy's more popular, more exuberant shadow, always giving in to everything she wants. Even unto men.
Which is where the movie starts, at Rachel's thirtieth birthday party, where you've never seen so many beautiful, hip, white thirty-year-olds in one place. Darcy is there, too, with her fiancé, Dex (Egglesfield). Turning thirty can be so stressful, you know, particularly when you're still single and your best friend from childhood is about to get married in a couple of months. It's even more stressful when you introduced your best friend from childhood to the fiancé, whom you always liked yourself.
Now, two months before Darcy and Dex's wedding, Rachel and Dex meet up again and suddenly realize they've always loved one another. They realize this after spending the night together. What to do, what to do?
In real life, the two would simply do the obvious: marry each other and apologize to Darcy. End of story. But this is a movie, after all, and we have another hour and a half left to fill. In fairness, screenwriter Jennie Snyder Urman based her script on a best-selling novel by Emily Giffin, so assuming that Urman didn't change too much of the original story, I suppose we have to blame the contrived circumstances on Ms. Giffin.
Anyway, to kill time the movie provides more complications that go nowhere, without a shred of wit, whimsey, or romance. What we do get are Goodwin as a humorless, insecure woman; Egglesfield as a handsome, serious, indecisive wimp; and Hudson as a cute-as-a-button airhead whose narcissism is more irritating than appealing. The only question is what Dex sees in Darcy beyond a superficial beauty. I mean, Darcy does things like throw her hands in the air and scream as a sign of her fun-loving attitude. To me, it's more like a sign of her shallow senselessness.
Surrounding this trio of unpleasant characters are even more unpleasant characters: Ethan (John Krasinksi), Rachel's longtime, noncommittal friend and confidant, the only character anywhere near likeable in the movie; Claire (Ashley Williams), a clueless ditz futilely pursuing Ethan; Marcus (Steve Howey), an obnoxious, woman-chasing boor; and Dex's snobby, superrich parents, who want to give Dex and Darcy a $2,000,000 home as a wedding gift.
Many of the main characters are young lawyers, so I guess they have money to burn and little else to do. Almost every scene takes place at an expensive restaurant, a trendy night club, or Darcy's beach house in the Hamptons. We never find out what Darcy does for a living; apparently, she's independently wealthy. The characters spend most of their time eating, drinking, and partying. When they're not in bed with one another.
Maybe the screenwriter of "Something Borrowed" should have retitled it "Something Boring." The characters are boring. The actors are boring. The situations are boring. The story is boring.
John's film rating: 3/10
The Film According to Michael:
Romantic comedies have been around as long as commercial cinema has been part of North American culture. You can go back as far as 1934 to find an iconic romantic comedy such as "It Happened One Night." The formula has been used over again for decades; but that is because, when done well, the formula works. There is a comfort in knowing what to expect, and a satisfaction in seeing that formula play out. The best romantic comedies will variate from the formula just enough to create a unique and satisfying experience. 2009's "(500) Days of Summer" is a perfect example of a romantic comedy that follows the "boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back" formula, only to throw you a curve ball somewhere along the way so not be too predictable.
"Something Borrowed," Luke Greenfeld's adaptation of the Emily Giffin novel, certainly fits under the romantic comedy umbrella, but it tells an atypical for cinema story of a soon-to-be-married man (Colin Egglesfield) who struggles whether to go through with the marriage to his fiancé (Kate Hudson) or leave her for her best friend (Ginnifer Goodwin). Unfortunately, the story told here leaves us with a cast full of unlikeable characters, with no one to root for and no option but to sit back and watch the insanity play out.
The plot of "Something Borrowed" is original for a romantic comedy. Content as heavy as marital infidelity and messing around with your best friend's man is usually reserved for films with a more serious tone, such as "Match Point" (2005) or "Closer" (2004). With all the lying and cheating going on at every turn, Greenfeld manages to keep the mood light, but he does so at the expense of his film. The issues being addressed can't be taken seriously the way they're presented in "Something Borrowed." Goodwin's Rachel is presented as the heroine, the girl we're supposed to sympathize with. But if Rachel's actions and those of her main love interest are just as despicable as those of her female adversary (Hudson), why should we root for her over anyone else? It is this dilemma that makes "Something Borrowed" fundamentally flawed right from the start. It's great to bring new, real-life issues into the film, but they have to be presented in the proper context.
The plot of the film is borrowed from the Emily Griffin novel of the same name. I have not read the book, but a quick skim seems to indicate that it's a pretty faithful adaptation of the original work.
Borrowed from his TV home on NBC's "The Office," John Krasinski gives the stand-out performance in this film. Playing the role of Rachel's confidant, Ethan is the voice of reason in the film and speaks on behalf of the audience in trying to make sense of the absurdity happening around him. He is also the lone source of comedy in his mocking of the crew fools he's associated himself with and also proves he's the smartest of the bunch by getting out of the continent before things get really crazy.
My heart, after sitting through this train wreck. Also the title of Giffin's sequel to the "Something Borrowed" novel. Let's hope it does not get adapted for the big screen.
It's possible and welcome for a romantic comedy to stray from the formula and tell an original story but there are some fundamental elements that have to be in place in order for this to work. First off, the audience needs someone to root for. Ideally, this person should be likable and have a strong moral and ethical base. Rachel, the single, self-loathing, career obsessed woman that she is, does not possess these qualities. It seems that just because everyone is cheating on and lying to everyone else, that Rachel is the heroine by default because she may be the least deplorable of the bunch.
The second fundamental of romantic comedy storytelling not adhered to is that the love interest should be made clear from the beginning and it should be obvious why he is better off with Girl A than he would be with Girl B. This does not happen in "Something Borrowed."
Also, and this should be added to every romantic comedy screen writer's handbook; if someone professes his or her love to someone else, that relationship absolutely must be resolved before the movie is over. It can't just be left to hang there leaving the audience asking themselves as they leave the theatre "What happened with that?" and "Did I miss something?" The answers to those questions in this case are nothing and no, you did not.
"Something Borrowed" is a romantic comedy that is short on both romance and comedy. It tells a story that is best suited for a film with a more serious tone. In lightening the mood, the film only manages to minimize the impact of the events of the story and removes any chance at an audience's emotional investment. It's a commentary on what can go wrong between romantic and social relationships masqueraded as a run-of-the-mill chick flick.
Michael's film rating: 4/10
WB's video engineers reproduce the film in its native 1.85:1 aspect ratio using a single-layer BD25 and an MPEG-4/AVC encode. Better they should have used a dual-layer disc and a higher bit rate, because it really doesn't look all that good. It's acceptable, but barely for a new film, the image soft and rough. Although the screen is bright enough, and colors are vivid (although not entirely natural), bright, vivid colors are not enough to compensate for the overall veiled picture and dusky skin tones. The PQ is not entirely bad, you understand; it just should have been better. Much better.
The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio does what it can with a mundane soundtrack that favors dialogue, as it should in a romantic comedy, and music, which can be loud and raucous. The film begins with a boomy bass track and never gets any better. The midrange is clean and clear, so at least everything the actors say is intelligible, but don't expect much more. There's a decent front-channel stereo spread, a modest dynamic range and impact, and very little surround sound except for a touch of ambient musical bloom.
The bonus items on the Blu-ray disc include a series of brief featurettes. First, there is "Something...Old?," four minutes with the stars and co-producer Hilary Swank discussing the film's themes. Next, there's "On Location Tours with Emily Giffin," about five minutes with the book's author; followed by "Marcus's Guide to the Ladies," about six minutes of Steve Howey in character as Marcus; "What Is 'Something Borrowed'?," about two minutes with the stars on discussing what the title means; and "Inside Something Borrowed," about two minutes with the stars and filmmakers discussing what the film meant to them. Then, there are four additional scenes, totaling about eight minutes, and a five-minute gag reel.
Furthermore, the disc comes with twelve scene selections; English, French, and Spanish spoken languages; French and Spanish subtitles; and English captions for the hearing impaired.
Finally, because this is a Combo Pack, it includes not only the movie in high definition on a Blu-ray disc but a standard definition DVD and a digital copy for iTunes or Windows Media (the offer expiring August 16, 2012). The discs come packaged in a flimsy two-disc Eco-case, further enclosed by a light-cardboard slipcover.
I have to disagree slightly with my colleague's 4/10 film rating, which I think is too generous to the movie. "Something Borrowed" is one of the most disagreeable films I've seen lately, but I will defer to his judgment in the final rating below since he got to it first in his theatrical review.