Altar Egos

With lots of old clichés and not much new, Something Borrowed is kind of blue

The “something borrowed” in Something Borrowed—an everlasting gobstopper of a romantic comedy that vacillates between saccharine sweetness and jaw-breaking tedium—is supposed to be the fiancé of one of the main characters, who is, er, borrowed by the maid of honor for wanton sex. But what’s really borrowed is every rom-com cliché that’s ever existed. Ill-timed declarations of love in the pouring rain, paramours waiting desperately below windows, seasonal changes accompanied by swelling music, tender moments that fade to slow motion—about halfway through, you may start to wonder, Is this a parody? But no, it’s simply a glossy, cardboard cookie-cutter of a movie, cobbled together from stale scraps of My Best Friend’s Wedding and the non-cardiomyopathy parts of Beaches. That said, if you’re in the right mood (or, say, hormonal and pregnant like me), it scratches a certain itch. After all, formulas exist because they work.

Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Darcy (Kate Hudson) have been friends since childhood, the kind of best friends who seem only to exist on celluloid—despite being so different that they barely seem to like each other, they do everything together, even going so far as having sleepovers into their 30s. Rachel is a goody-two-shoes lawyer who wears sensible shoes, maintains a mousy set of bangs and has become a virtuoso at playing second fiddle to the vapid, narcissistic, aggressively sexual Darcy (who doesn’t seem to have a job aside from Being The Deserving Antagonist). Darcy is engaged to Dex (Colin Egglesfield, Tom Cruise’s heir apparent), an almost comically handsome law school classmate of Rachel’s. But, within the movie’s first 10 minutes, Rachel and Dex flirt over drinks, reveal long-standing mutual crushes and have a one-night stand. Oops!

But it’s OK, see, because through a series of flashbacks we learn that Rachel and Dex have always been in love, but that mixed signals (his) and insecurities (hers) kept them from being together. Rachel even set Dex up with Darcy, not believing that someone so good-looking could ever fall for her. Yet the fact remains that Darcy and Dex are getting married, and that Rachel—the maid of honor—finds herself playing a new role as the hypotenuse of a so-wrong-it’s-right triangle. She agonizes over her feelings with Ethan (John Krasinski, playing a less funny version of Rupert Everett’s gay BFF role), another childhood friend who does little but act as Rachel’s nagging conscience (there’s a subplot involving a crazy-eyed woman Ethan once slept with that adds 10 unnecessary minutes to the already plodding proceedings), but she can’t seem to decide what she wants. Neither can Dex, and so they volley neuroses and stolen glances back and forth like so much beach badminton until Darcy gets wise. An idiotic lothario named Marcus (Steve Howey) is also tossed into the mix, presumably for comedic effect, but like Ethan he just ends up as empty filler.

Goodwin and Egglesfield have great chemistry, and it’s hard not to swoon just a little when they gaze at each other with googly eyes. But the climax (so to speak) takes place so early that it’s hard to maintain interest 90 minutes later. The will-they or won’t-they suspense ebbs and flows in what seems like an endless series of false starts, and the lengths to which the script goes to justify infidelity (let’s just say Darcy’s no angel herself) feels too easy—Rachel and Dex may belong together, but even by rom-com standards adultery doesn’t count as a meet cute. Besides, borrowing something—a paperback, a dollar, your BFF’s future husband’s genitals—usually indicates that you’ll be giving it back. Oh, well. I guess, Something Taken didn’t quite have the right ring.

Something Borrowed (PG-13) ★★☆☆☆