How do you make a watchable Kate Hudson movie?
By pretending it's a Kate Hudson movie -- and then keeping her off-screen for great chunks of the film. That leaves more screen time for the utterly delicious Ginnifer Goodwin, an actress who can tickle you and break your heart at almost the same time.
That's the formula for Something Borrowed, based on a novel by Emily Giffin. (Talk about product placement: Giffin can be spotted in one scene, sitting on a park bench, reading a copy of another of her books. Paging Morgan Spurlock.) It's the kind of romantic comedy that Hollywood cranks out regularly -- but rarely seems to get right.
Yet director Luke Greenfield, working from a script by Jennie Snyder Urman, does make the romance work. And if the comedy is rarely laugh-out-loud funny, it is occasionally chuckle-worthy and seldom awful or stupid. It's an emotionally intelligent film, if not an outstandingly amusing one.
Goodwin plays Rachel, a hard-working lawyer who, as the film opens, is being feted at a surprise 30th birthday party, arranged by her life-long best pal Darcy (Hudson), and Darcy's fiancé, Dex (Colin Egglesfield). But that evening ends, through a confluence of circumstances, with Rachel sleeping with Dex. Now what?
As it turns out, Dex and Rachel were law-school study partners and Rachel had a huge crush on Dex. But because he's so good-looking, she assumed he was out of her league - and then let Darcy steal him away when she introduced them. Now she's set to be Darcy's maid of honor at her wedding to Dex.
But first they have to get through a long summer of will they/won't they flirting while Dex tries to make up his mind what to do and Rachel tries not to betray her friend's trust any further. Circling Rachel like a satellite is her best friend Ethan (John Krasinski), who's obviously a better choice for her but who doesn't stand a chance next to the picture-perfect Dex.
The film is a series of scenes -- many of them set at a Hamptons summer share -- built around the secret and the tension it causes. Inevitably, there are more secrets that come out, along with misunderstandings and unexpected hookups.
As noted, the film isn't particularly funny. But it deals with a plausible and complex situation that is emotionally complicated in a credible way, without doing anything egregious or just plain dumb.
On the other hand, Urman's script seldom provokes the kind of laughs you wish for in a true romantic comedy. There are moments that will surprise you -- and Krasinski has a way of spinning even mundane lines to make them sound funny.
Goodwin is an actress who invites you in, with her open face and emotions that never lay far beneath the surface. I don't think she's a movie star, in the sense that I don't think people will see this movie because Goodwin is in it -- but she IS an actress.
That's an accusation that will never be lodged against the moon-faced Hudson, who is perfectly fine as the she-devil in this mix. Egglesfield is actually fairly charming as the conflicted Dex, while Ashley Williams and Steve Howey make the most of comic supporting roles (particularly Williams, who does a lot with a very little, thanks to her crazy eyes).
Something Borrowed is no one's idea of a great movie. But, like this week's Jumping the Broom, it keeps its eye on the ball enough to pull you in and hold you, even if you don't laugh as often as you'd like.