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Lynn Crosbie: Pop Rocks

Something Borrowed: The chick flick's back and meaner than ever Add to ...

The tag line: "How Do You Choose Between Your Best Friend and True Love?"

This Friday, with the release of Something Borrowed (based on Emily Giffin's 2004 bestseller), the chick flick is back with a vengeance.

And with it, still more girl-on-girl loathing, seeping like cyanide gas from the confectionery sugar that is the poppy, happy film.

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I have only seen the movie's trailer (try to tell me that's not enough!) but have read, during a particularly loathsome convalescence, the dusty-rose-coloured Giffin book, the premise of which frightened me.

Let's go back to the tag line. What if the question posited were How Do You Choose Between Killing a Man and a Bag of Diamonds?

These are not hard decisions: Consider Spinoza on the toxicity of immoderate desires, or acquire a mere speck of ethics - you will always make the right choice.

Not so in chicksville: population, one adorable-yet-plain brunette, one sexy, blond raging narcissist. The choice that the two face? Well that's the tricky part: Girl A, Rachel, played by the dumpy-attractive Ginnifer Goodwin, is the only one making choices, whereas Girl B, Darcy, played with wild-child fervour by Kate Hudson, merely exists to prove that all best friends are ultimately frenemies.

The situation is as follows: Darcy throws a 30th-birthday party for buttoned-down lawyer Rachel. An atmosphere of gloom about her being old, single and barren pervades the sexy proceedings, where PR girl Darcy dances on a table, shaking her hair like a fan of the hard-rock Whitesnake band.

Darcy's irritated fiancé, Dex - whose obvious lobotomy is never spoken of - insists his sexy girlfriend leave so he can take off and have wild sex with her mopey best friend.

And there's the conundrum.

Having slept with the feckless Dex, instead of waking up and turning herself over to the Sisterhood for a debriefing and corporal punishment (hair-pulling, slapping, cries of "fat tacky Judas!"), Rachel proceeds, like the evil lawyer she is, to justify her actions as well as, appallingly, continuing a hot flirtation with Dex while she helps her BFF Darcy wedding-plan.

Darcy is a horrible person, the reasoning goes. Everything is just handed to her; she always wins! Such is the whining that passes for the reason of an educated mind.

Supporting her is "Ethan," the ubiquitous chick-flick sexually ambivalent male friend, who exists to spur the heroine forward with the ardent insistence that she "deserves to be happy!"

Ethan is a plot device derived from legend and literature: He is Pandarus, the devious go-between, facilitating matters for lovers such as Troilus and Cressida in Shakespeare's play, lovers who clearly should never have chosen true love.

In the Giffin franchise, he is utterly sinister: a snake pried from another legend, about temptation, sin and its consequences.

But if Ethan is Lucifer-ish, there are no consequences here. The story of a heartless woman's betrayal of her friend is posited, dramatically, as a sort of All for Love tragic romance, but without playwright John Dryden's thoroughly moral stance (regarding what he finds fundamentally repugnant about Antony and Cleopatra).

How is Something Borrowed a chick flick, since it's the sort of story that gets your face slapped and extensions ripped out on the TV talk show Maury? Because women are hate-filled sexual competitors. So says pop cinema, from All About Eve through My Best Friend's Wedding, and while the hate may be axiomatic, it is also only half the story.

Women, in fact, hate and love each other: Picture the twin serpents coiled around the short, winged staff that is the caduceus, and this is the very image of women's complex, conflicting-yet-harmonious emotions, so often taking excitable flight. (I will leave you to interpret the short staff.) I am sure everything works out in the film, and that Goodwin, playing the exact same role she always does, gets the hot guy, because hot guys named Dex always disdain gorgeous exhibitionists and long for shy, homely girls.

It is hard to dignify plain jealousy, but one's heart does tremble for the Rachels who are always on the outside, looking in.

This genre continues to attract fans because there are not a lot of Kate Hudsons around. Combine the attainable looks and charm of Goodwin with a ferocious sense of entitlement - since when do we "deserve" love, or other indulgences? How utterly un-romantic is this love and parity combo? - and you have a chick-flick heroine so very many women can look up to, as they sit scheming in the theatre, eating the XL-with-extra-butter popcorn because, "I had a brutal week and I deserve this!"

 

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