I’m usually no fan of
chick flicks romantic comedies or chick lit women’s commercial fiction (god I hate the infantilizing term “chick”). While I enjoy romance, I cringe over the vapid dialogue, shallow characters, the reinforcing of stereotypical gender roles, the obsession over men, getting married and finding The One. I find the absolute solipsism given to men in these wretched movies unbearable, as if women never talk or think about anything else. But every now and then, a movie (like oh say Devil Wears Prada or Definitely, Maybe) comes along, surprising and delighting me. So with this skeptical yet ever so slightly hopeful attitude, I went to see Something Borrowed.
Based on the New York Times best-selling book by Emily Giffin, Something Borrowed follows the lives of Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Darcy (Kate Hudson) who’ve been inseparable best friends since childhood. Smart, studious Rachel is an attorney while vivacious, lime-light stealing, party girl Darcy is…well, we’re never quite sure what she is in the movie (although in the book she works in public relations). Darcy is also engaged to Dex (Colin Egglesfield), Rachel’s smart and handsome good friend from law school. At her 30th birthday, Rachel confesses to Dex that she used to have a crush on him years ago, a revelation that ends up testing her friendship with Darcy.
Now, the premise bugged me right from the start; it glorifies infidelity. Oh, it’s okay if you sleep with your best friend’s fiancé so long as he’s The One; otherwise you’re a big whore. But what pissed me off even more is how movies and the media perpetually pit women against each other…and this film is no different. Movies often devalue women’s friendships; they’re tossed aside as if women are too catty, too calculating, too backstabbing, and too man-hungry to ever really get along.
The actors make the movie a bit more likeable, particularly the hilarious scene-stealing John Krasinski. Colin Egglesfield does his best charming Tom Cruise here. But Ginnifer Goodwin who’s supposed to be the center of the film is forgettable (except for her rampant usage of the word “stop” throughout much of the film) and Kate Hudson plays…well the same role she always plays.
I couldn’t help comparing this film to Bride Wars, perhaps because Hudson forever churns out these shitty movies, mere mimeographs of one another. I hate the consumerism and competition suffocating Bride Wars. But I must admit that the end makes me weep like a baby as Anne Hathaway’s and Kate Hudson’s characters realize what truly matters: their friendship. But the same can’t be said for Something Borrowed. In the book, you discover that while Darcy is selfish, she stood up for Rachel against a school bully and she would never blow off her friends for a guy. In the movie, the only scene just about the two friends, rather than weddings or boyfriends, occurs during a bachelorette party sleepover when they dance along to Salt N Pepa’s “Push It,” bringing me back to my own junior high days as my best friend Angela and I choreographed a dance to that song too (what is it about that song?!). Yet despite this cute moment, I’m never really sure why Rachel is friends with Darcy, other than habit as they’ve been friends for decades. Perhaps the movie would have been more compelling had the plot focused on the complexities of being friends with someone you find simultaneously infectious and exasperating.
In the movie, Rachel’s confidante is another childhood friend, Ethan (the adorable Krasinski). But in the wretchedly awful book (which yes, I unfortunately read as research for this review…clichéd language, corny dialogue, lacking character development…the lengths I go to), Rachel confides in Ethan but also her close friend from work Hillary, a female character completely erased from the film. Rachel laments throughout the film that Darcy breezes through life, taking things away from her. But Ethan tells Rachel to stop passively waiting around and to take charge of her life. As a result, Rachel eventually recognizes that it’s not Darcy doing the taking, it’s Rachel giving herself away. Yet I can’t shake the feeling that I wished another female friend advised her or she came to this realization on her own. Again the film conveys that women don’t need other women or themselves for that matter, only men.
Not only are two women ultimately pitted against one another, they exist as two common female archetypes: the good girl and the bad girl. No depth, no subtle nuances exist here. Rachel is hard-working, thoughtful and sweet while Darcy is impetuous, obnoxious, boisterous, and likes sex. Despite Darcy being the person who’s wronged through her best friend’s betrayal, it’s clear whom we’re supposed to root for here. Through this one dimensionality, women fall into one of two categories and on two sides sparring for the prize: a man. Even though she dabbles in bad girl territory, Rachel follows her heart so all her betrayals and dishonesty become justified; she does it in the name of love so she’s ultimately still a good girl. Too often, women’s roles are relegated to simplistic caricatures, frequently in a virgin/whore dichotomy. Women are far more complicated and nuanced than Hollywood would have us believe.
In Something Borrowed we learn about Dex’s parents and Dex’s dreams and aspirations but not Rachel’s or even Darcy’s. It’s as if the women in the film don’t really matter; it’s all about the men. Movies like these continually reinforce the notion that careers and friends don’t count; it’s only your love life that matters. Society tells women they can never truly be happy without a man in their life. I call bullshit. Perhaps I’m being too hard on a movie intended to exist as light-hearted, romantic escapism. But I don’t find anything fun about a movie that silences women’s voices and erases their relationships with each other.
Megan Kearns is a blogger, freelance writer and activist. A feminist vegan, Megan blogs at The Opinioness of the World. Her work has appeared at Open Letters Monthly, Arts & Opinion and A Safe World for Women. She earned her B.A. in Anthropology and Sociology and a Graduate Certificate in Women and Politics and Public Policy. She lives in Boston. She previously contributed reviews of The Kids Are All Right, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire, and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest to Bitch Flicks.