Something Borrowed

The Book Vs. The Movie

~ By Elle Filz

It’s always a tricky process bringing a much-beloved novel to the silver screen.  With the limitations of time (2 hours, unless you’re Peter Jackson), and the overwhelming need to keep the folks who haven’t read the book as engaged as those who have, screenwriters are forced to walk a fine line between telling the story practically word for word (Harry Potters 1 & 2 are a good example of this) and capturing the essence of the story while changing around a few things (Harry Potter 3).  The good screenwriters will come out of this relatively unscathed by the folks who loved the book in question. The great ones will inspire those who haven’t actually read the book to run to their nearest Barnes and Noble.

Jennie Snyder, the screenwriter of Something Borrowed, is neither good, nor great.  In fact, I’m half-wondering if she even bothered to actually read the book at all.  Though Something Borrowed the movie shares the characters and the basic premise (Maid of Honor sleeps with BFF’s fiance and the two realize they’re in love), the rest of Snyder’s screenplay was a heartbreaking farce of Emily Giffin’s hard work. I don’t know what I watched, exactly, but it wasn’t Something Borrowed.

Warning, there are a few spoilers ahead….

My main problem with the movie lies in the presentation of the central concept itself.  Yes, boinking your BFF’s fiancé is wrong, there’s no two ways about it.  However, where Giffin presents a page turner of moral dilemma, Snyder leaves no room for the viewer to even ponder the question.  Snyder is firmly Team Rachel, and does everything in her power to make sure that viewers are beat over the head with that idea right from the start.  How does she do this?  By turning Darcy into an egotistical shrew with no redeeming value, that’s how.

Don’t get me wrong, Giffin’s Darcy is self-centered, too.  However, with Giffin’s Darcy, you get moments of redemption that makes you see why Dex is conflicted about leaving her.  Snyder’s Darcy is just a narcissist.  This is particularly apparent in her relationship with Ethan.  In the book, Ethan is firmly ensconced in London (they combined Ethan and Hillary here, putting him in NYC and giving him the Greek Chorus role) hearing about everything from Rachel’s point of view.  He seems to understand Rachel’s resentment, but it’s also clear he has a soft spot for his old, misguided pal Darcy.   In turn, when Rachel mentions Ethan, it’s clear that Giffin’s Darcy may not be interested in an involved relationship but she has a mild interest in keeping up with him. Though Snyder clearly wrote Something Borrowed with the idea of following it up with Something Blue, she shot herself in the foot by presenting Darcy’s view of Ethan as an annoyance who has to be dealt with rather than the safe haven he eventually ends up being.

Darcy, as presented by Snyder, is such a one-dimensional caricature, Snyder had to invent a reason for Dex to stay with her without looking like he was only into her for one thing. What she comes up with, is a chronically-depressed mother who seems to be “improving” with the excitement of the wedding.  Yes, Dex’s moral dilemma actually boils down to I-love-Rachel-but-if-I-leave-Darcy-Mama’s-going-to-off-herself.

* Facepalm *

Snyder also thought it was funny to change Marcus from a charming Georgetown grad to a stoner-type and Claire into this annoyingly eager little chippy who is totally obsessed with Ethan.  Though Darcy still attempts to throw Rachel and Marcus together, her machinations fall flat in the movie because Rachel is simply too damn smart for Marcus.  On the Ethan/Claire side, they actually resorted to Ethan telling her he was gay to get her off his back (so to speak).  Again, Ethan and Claire as Giffin wrote them, were way too smart to resort to these sophomoric tricks.

What breaks my heart most about this whole thing is that other reviewers (mostly male) have decided that if the movie is based on a book, the problem automatically lies with the source material.  That’s crazy talk.  Anyone who remembers the war between Anne Rice and the producers of Interview with a Vampire over casting Tom Cruise as Lestat knows how little creative control an author actually has when they sell the rights to their books.  I don’t know the details of Emily Giffin’s rights deal, but I do know that she wasn’t listed as a primary screenwriter. That suggests that she didn’t have control over the final product.  To blame Giffin is an insult to her and the millions of readers who love her work.

I wanted to love this movie.  I wanted to put it on the DVD shelf with Bridget Jones’s Diary, the Harry Potters, Clueless, and all the other cinematic adaptations that have lived up to the books I loved before them.  On some level, it was an adorable romantic comedy.  I adore Ginnifer Goodwin and John Krasinksi in anything they do, and it’s always great to see Ashley Wiliams working.  The entire cast did a wonderful job with the material they were given, and the cinematography really does put New York in its best possible light.  With any other title, I probably would have enjoyed it; with the title it had, it was something I borrowed I wish I could have returned.

By day, Elle Filz is an IT geek in Baltimore, MD.  By night, you can either find her singing karaoke or jotting down notes for her next women’s fiction story.  She is also an aspiring Betty Crocker-type who thanks God every day that a fireman lives next door.

3 thoughts on “Something Borrowed”

  1. Pingback: This Week in Chick Lit

  2. I LOVED the book. I liked the movie. But because I LOVED the book so much, I was really peeved about the major changes, most specifically Ethan being in town and taking the place of Hilary. And I hated that Ethan had feelings for Rachel in the movie when that never happened in the book! And turning Marcus into a joke when he was supposed to be (in the book) actual competition for Dex for Rachel’s affection! These major deviations from the book were too much for me to bear. And finally, all of the fighting (read: sexual tension) between Ethan and Darcy was a dead give-away about Something Blue! But I must disagree that Giffin wrote Darcy to be less self-absorbed and conceited. I hated Darcy in the book – found absolutely nothing redeeming about her until Something Blue. And I hated her in the movie.

  3. Excellent review of both book, movie, and book-into-movie.
    I had toyed with the idea of watching Something Borrowed with my wife, but after reading your analysis, I think a better investment would be to buy the paperback and share it.
    I’ve seen sev. movies which made me want to go back and read the book. And I’ve seen a number of movies based on books I’ve read that made me wonder — as you have here — if the movie folks even SAW the book.
    One of the best adaptations of book to movie (in my opinion) was To Kill a Mockingbird. Both are classics in their own right and I believe the movie follows the book as closely as a two hour show could.

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