Sometimes when good people pursue their own happiness together, the happiness of another person is collateral damage. This third person doesn’t have to be a monster in order for the good people to remain good. This is what happens in the world of human adults—and in good drama, for that matter—all the time: People have to choose between betraying a friend and acting in their own self-interest or staying loyal and denying what the heart wants. Based on Emily Giffin’s novel, Something Borrowed gets into this sticky situation and relentlessly cheats its way out of it, cravenly fearing that the audience might not like its characters for making tough choices. And yes, perhaps the audience will like its favored couple more, but all the engineering that goes into making them sympathetic results in a film that feels agonizingly synthetic and alien.
Playing to what’s quickly becoming her type, based on this and He’s Just Not That Into You, Ginnifer Goodwin stars as a lonely, insecure flibbertigibbet with a knack for getting herself into embarrassing situations. Kate Hudson plays her best friend since childhood, but the two have grown into very different people: Goodwin a shy, steady, humble professional and Hudson a bubbly, narcissistic party girl. With Hudson months away from marrying Goodwin’s old law-school friend Colin Egglesfield, Goodwin starts to regret not making a play for Egglesfield herself and discovers he feels likewise. So over a long summer, with lots of tense group trips to Egglesfield’s beachside getaway in the Hamptons, Goodwin and Egglesfield have an affair and fall in love, but are hesitant to hurt Hudson by calling off the wedding.
And yet Hudson makes it so easy by being a boozing, preening, self-serving party animal with no sensitivity to the people in her immediate orbit. Something Borrowed offers precisely one scene—a sleepover at Goodwin’s apartment—that allows Hudson to be human and makes sense of a friendship that probably should have faded many years earlier. But the rest of the film turns her into cartoon, and surrounds the characters with more cartoonishness, like having Goodwin’s equally lovelorn friend (John Krasinski) pretend that he’s gay to rebuff a woman (Ashley Williams) who keeps throwing herself at him. Something Borrowed leaves the impression that Goodwin and Egglesfield belong together not because they’re compatible, but because they’re of the same species.