Saturday, May 7, 2011

Something Borrowed

MPAA (PG-13) CNS/USCCB (L) Roger Ebert (2 stars) Fr Dennis (3 stars)

IMDb listing -
CNS/USCCB review -
Roger Ebert’s review -

It should be said at the beginning that like many other recent so-called rom-coms, Something Borrowed (directed by Luke Greenfield, screenplay by Jennie Snyder based on the novel by Emily Giffin) is not really all that light or funny.   On even short reflection, however, this should not be surprising.  After all it is about at least two young people (and possibly a third) who make a critical relational mistake.  Perhaps they did so inadvertently, perhaps they were somewhat “forced” into it by both their “upbringing” or “circumstances.”  Nevertheless our decisions (or indecisions) have consequences and that’s what this somewhat cautionary tale is about.                                           

Rachel (played by Ginnifer Goodwin) and Dex (played by Colin Egglesfield) had spent an entire year of law school studying together.  Yet, due to shyness, insecurity (“Could he/she really like/love me?” or perhaps “I don’t want to ruin this great friendship that we have”) both decide (internally, without discussing the matter with the other) not to pursue the matter further.  Things come to a head, when Rachel’s louder, somewhat bombastic friend Darcy (played by Kate Hudson), who knows Dex from Rachel’s much talking about him, runs into them in the midst of a “celebratory _non date_ dinner” to mark the end of that intense year at school.  She challenges Dex to ask Rachel on date (all this is in the movie’s trailer).  Rachel responds “oh no, we’re just friends.”  Darcy, somewhat unthinkingly responds “Ok, then Dex ask me on a date.”  Somewhat disoriented by the sudden urgency of the matter Dex dutifully asks Darcy on a date (in front of Rachel).  She accepts.  Rachel steps out to the bathroom, when she comes back D&D are talking away.  Rachel, then excuses herself to go home.  Dex even follows her out the door to check if “everything was okay.”  Rachel responds “Oh sure, I’m fine, who knows where it will lead?”  And five years later, when the movie takes place, this exchange led all three of them  into a really big ditch.  Darcy and Dex are about to get married and only under that matrimonial gun do the real feelings start to come out in this triangle.

Yes, like most movies of this kind, Something Borrowed’s characters, especially those surrounding the lead three are somewhat exaggerated.  They are “types” more than people.  Still some of the psychology behind all three of the lead characters is presented, making the movie certainly more realistic but (at times) also much more painful to watch.

I do believe that there are a number of rather good messages present in this movie. 

First, and foremost, younger folks, _please_ don’t let your otherwise “shyness” or “niceness”/”decency” become an obstacle to your asserting yourself when it’s really important.  Dex was not a random guy for Rachel (and vice versa).  Yet, in an instant both proved capable of throwing away an entire year of memories/history, for what?  To be “nice” to a friend Darcy, for whom (at least initially) Dex was _exactly_ a “random guy” who could have been replaced rather quickly by her if she had been indicated to “lay off” by either Dex or Rachel.  Instead, neither Dex nor Rachel took responsibility for their own lives and feelings and in a vacuum, Darcy “took over.”

This is not to say that Darcy’s unreflectiveness (both in her relationship with Dex as her fiancé and Rachel, who she almost certainly sincerely continued to consider her best friend) is an attractive trait.  She plays the elephant in the china shop.  Still, nature abhors a vacuum and if Dex since Rachel chose to abdicate responsibility for their own lives and happiness, Darcy was there to fill the space.  But “Darcy” could have been “work,” stupid diversion,” video-games, etc.

Second, the institution of marriage _is valuable_.  Its very permanence / seriousness forced ALL THREE to confront the demons present.  Without the impending wedding, Darcy and Dex could have continued to simply “live together” indefinitely in unreflective ambiguity essentially forever with no one except unreflective Darcy being happy but without any crushing need to finally resolve the situation.

Third, true friendships survive blowups.  Without revealing the ending, it seemed rather clear to me that even if the chess pieces were moved around a bit (and there were other “side characters” involved as well), it seemed clear to me that all three of the friendships involved in this triangle were going to survive if perhaps somewhat redefined.  If you truly love someone, if you’re truly a friend to someone, you want the other person to be happy.  So yes, friendships survive blowups.

But of course, there’s much to discuss/reflect on in this movie.  I found Something Borrowed to be be a very good young adult movie, reminding me of St. Elmo’s Fire from "my time,” perhaps better.  I found Kate Hudson's playing of  "party girl" Darcy particularly compelling.  Hers was a character with a lot of unspoken problems really, among them being that she seemed to _always_ have a drink in her hand... (something that someone of my age no longer fails to notice ...) 

I’d certainly recommend the movie to the 20 something crowd.  In one's 20s one is making (or not making) key decisions that will effect the rest of one's life.  And if there’d be _one piece_ of advice in line with the spirit of this movie that I'd like to offer the 20 somethings of today, it is in the words of one of the great bards of my generation, Bruce Springsteen: “If there’s something you need, if there’s something you want, you’ve got to raise your hand.”  It’s a great song that Springsteen always sang with a smile, fits the spirit of this movie, very, very well, and it’s absolutely true.

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