Reel Sex: Secrets and Lies in ‘Something Borrowed’

Anyone who has ever had to keep a secret knows staying mum is more chore than awesome. It’s one of those things that, as I’ve aged, I’ve grown to hate more than anything. I understand and respect the importance of secrets. I just don’t understand the drama behind them. Or, for that matter, the sheer thrill when one finally unravels. I’ve learned from both personal and filmic examples just how when you keep something scandalous inside you for so long, eventually it will eat you from the inside out.

Nothing has driven my absolute disgust for secret relationships more than this year’s Something Borrowed,a film that causes both our own Kate Erbland and myself to want to punch babies. In the face. While there is more than one reason to hate the vile, troubling nature of a film pitting two supposedly best friends against each other, what I always come back to when the horrible, PTSD-like flashbacks of the film hit is how difficult it must be juggling so many lies with people one should care about. Even worse is that the lies involve having sex with someone you shouldn’t and then secretly hoping another person finds out. The thrill of the tryst is the same thrill of exposure.

The film’s plot has been well-documented. Based on the Emily Giffin novel of the same title, Something Borrowed follows the mousey, “smart” girl Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) and her frienemy relationship with Darcy (Kate Hudson) as they both navigate their newly minted 30’s and prepare for Darcy’s pending nuptials to fiancé Dex (Colin Egglesfield). Sounds like boring enough romantic comedy fodder, but just wait! See, the rub is that Rachel is really in love with Dex who, for some reason, the ladies think is the bee’s knees. Rachel, following a disastrous surprise birthday party Darcy bestows on her friend, gets so rip-roaring drunk she confesses her love for Dex in the back of a cab. With her tongue down his throat. Like a lady.

Now the couple has turned into a messy, secret threesome. When Rachel wakes up the next morning with Dex in her bed, she smiles a slightly satisfied, almost smug grin. She thinking to herself that she’s won the county fair’s prize pig. She bathes in this moment, refusing to recognize that she has, in fact, slept with her best friend’s fiancé. But once she does, she flips out. As any sane woman would. Despite the fact that Rachel feels like Darcy stole Dex from her all those years ago, she does have this one moment of regret for getting handsy with the unavailable guy.

That doesn’t last long, as Dex and Rachel keep finding themselves slipping into each other. Rachel tries to justify her actions to her unwilling confidant Ethan (John Krasinski), who is not only tasked with keeping the whole affair secret, but also with mirroring the audience’s own disgust every time he has to tell her that Dex is bad news. Ethan, being an observer of the whole affair, watches as Rachel falls all over herself every time Dex is around. But there are fleeting moments where even Rachel is left feeling hurt by the secret she must keep.

During the Fourth of July weekend, Dex stays with Rachel while Darcy and her friends head to the Hamptons. This is a turning point for the secret lovers. The couple lives a fantasy life where they get to be together without constantly looking over their shoulders, but it’s clear that this affects Rachel more than it affects Dex. When their sex is had and the pleasure haze of the weekend is over, all that remains is the realization that he will never leave Darcy, and Rachel will be left with a secret not even her dear friend Ethan cares to carry any longer.

What’s truly painful is the constant justification of this terrible secret and how Rachel continues to engage with a man who is admittedly too cowardly to fess up to his own feelings. He cannot do so with Rachel, even when she asks him point blank to choose her over Darcy. And he cannot do so with Darcy, who eventually fesses up to her own affair. The multiple affairs and sneaking around make every character seem weak, hideous, and monstrous, and it’s even more sickening that in the end these people get exactly what they want.

Everyone that is, but Ethan, whose faithfulness to Rachel and her secret leaves him with one thing – a sad heart. He is the one character in the film who is genuinely worthy of happiness, but he is the one left injured after the dusts settles on the happily-ever-afters no one else in Something Borrowed deserves. Just like in life, holding on to someone else’s secrets often damages the keeper more than the provider.

While Gwen Reyes has only briefly been a film critic and columnist, she's long been telling people what movies they should drop dollars on, regardless if they are listening to her or not. Based out of Dallas, she wants to live the dream by watching movies all day and drinking vodka gimlets all night. She graduated from Sweet Briar College with a surprisingly handy degree in Philosophy and Film Studies--it explains why she spends so much time analyzing the murderers in sexual thrillers (yes, dear reader, that's her excuse!)--and she loves anything to do with gnomes, pot-bellied pigs, and beards. But most importantly, Gwen likes movies about sad people, funny people, naked people, and bearded people.

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