After a night of drinking, a groom wakes up in bed next to woman who is not his bride. Over the course of the story, the groom will realize that his incompatibility with his bride and run away with the new woman.
This summarizes the plot of both A Guy Thing (2003) and Something Borrowed (2011). In both films, the narrative justifies the groom cheating (or potentially cheating) on their future bride based on their behavior and others. In each scenario, the story sidesteps any discussion of culpability or complexity by framing the unfaithful character as sympathetic and the bride as wrong.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
A Guy Thing
Paul Morse (Jason Lee) wakes up in bed next to Becky (Julia Stiles), the cousin of his bride-to-be. Now a week away from the wedding, Paul must do his best to cover up his indiscretion from his bride-to-be Karen (Selma Blair) and her family.
A Guy Thing comes from a script by Greg Glienna and Pete Schwaba. Glienna became known for writing the independent film Meet the Parents (1992), which Universal Pictures remade with Ben Stiller in 2000. Glienna imagined it as his follow-up to Parents. If that story focused on the parents, this story would actually focus on the wedding.
Originally Glienna imagined it as a story where the lead character slept with the cousin. His original ending involved an elderly Paul telling his wife about it and her slapping him. Schwaba suggested that Paul end up with the cousin. David Ladd bought it and set it up at MGM.
Ladd and producers wanted to revise the script a little bit. They brought on Sitcom writers Matt Tarses and Bill Wrubel, both of whom worked on Sports Night (1998-2000). Both said that they put in “character things.”
Ladd then brought on director Chris Koch, who reworked the script with the new writers. Koch had previously directed Snow Day (2000), which takes place in a similar cold world filled with lots of slapstick. Koch and star Jason Lee saw it as a more adult comedy than the title might suggest. Such changes including taking many uses of the word “dude.”
The World of the Film
A Guy Thing seems like the hipster’s version of a screwball comedy or a farce. Early in the film, Paul listens to a radio program where a social scientist talks about the dangers of conformity. Almost every character either fits into a binary as a rigid menacing authority figure or a wacky yet lovable goofball. Paul serves a sort of lovable straight man that broaches both groups.
Aside from the narrative choices, the aesthetics suggest a moody film. The film takes place in a ghostly blue Seattle. The trailer color corrects the scenes to make it look warmer than the actual film. The film’s angles often feature wide angle shots and push-ins to emphasize danger. The wardrobe and wallpaper often have bizarre patterns rather just being plain. The score by former Devo member Mark Mothersbaugh often anxiously plods from crisis to crisis. All of these choices make the film come across as anxious.
About a half hour into the film, Paul meets up with Becky and learns that he did not actually sleep with her. He also learns that she has no intention of revealing it ever. Since this choice quickly diffuses the conflict, the plot has to come up with a few new conflicts to keep rolling. These include introducing Becky’s psychotic boyfriend and a whole bunch of other complications to the situation.
Different Cuts of the Film
A Guy Thing experienced many different cuts and reshoots. Parts of subplots get cut out. Two of Selma Blair’s big moments in the trailer come from a deleted scene in the film. Similarly, the film cuts out many scenes that seem extra. This included more scenes of Karen putting Paul in compromising situations.
The DVD has three different endings (though two are very similar). The first has Paul walking out of the church with Becky as the same radio host from the beginning plays over the end. The second two have Paul meeting Becky as she serves as a tour guide at the Seattle Space needle. This ending features Paul fantasizing about a big romantic kiss with Becky. The final ending combines the time frame of the first ending and the fantasy kiss from the next two endings.
Paul comes from a very down to earth background, with a lovable yet absurd mother and stepfather (Julie Hagerty and David Koechner). Unsure of getting married, Paul approaches the wedding with a certain resigned complacency. He has quietly agreed to lead a certain life working for his menacing conservative father-in-law (James Brolin).
The film introduces all of this information after the first scene and initial incident of Paul waking up in bed next to Becky. The audience does not really get to know Paul until after that. During the party, the audience knows Paul feels uncertainty about his upcoming wedding.
At his bachelor party, Paul gives a hate labelling him the groom to a friend. Since they are at a Hawaiian themed bar, the venue brings out “Tiki Girls” to dance with them. Becky the Tiki girl assumes Paul’s bachelorhood because he did not wear the hat. This leads to the initial incident of Paul waking up next to Becky.
The Love Interest
A free spirit, Becky bounces around from place to place. In a running joke, she has a new job every time the audience sees her. The screenwriters and director actually rewrote the role for Julia Stiles, who described it as being similar to Madonna’s role in Desperately Seeking Susan (1985).
In this story, Paul does not sleep with Becky, but does wake up next to her. The film jumps through hoops to make sure that their story seems as horrible as possible before pulling back the curtain to reveal how the temerity and innocence of the story. This includes creating a subplot where Paul has crabs, which he assumes Becky gave to him. He actually got it from a toilet seat.
Becky also has a psychotic ex-boyfriend named Ray Donovan (Lochlyn Munro), who also happens to be a cop. This leads to many scenes of Ray bullying and torturing Paul, but without much of a payoff to any of them (Ray’s story pretty much ends before the wedding). Apparently, this plotline got rewritten and recut from the original. Either way, the character mainly serves to create absurd situations and help Paul solidify his feelings towards Becky.
The Bride to Be
Paul’s uptight fiancée Karen comes from a fairly conservative family. She wants everything to be just perfect. The film tends to dress her in sweaters, turtlenecks, and long coats. Throughout most of the story, she serves as a wet blanket to dampen Paul’s spirit.
The Best Friend
In A Guy Thing, Paul has two male best friends. Both serve to give him advice and help him out. They both have their own
His loyal yet deeply neurotic brother Pete (Thomas Lennon) has a crush on Karen and has had for a long time. In time, the audience comes to learn that Karen feels the same way and connects more to Pete than Paul. At the end, Pete and Karen run off together after Paul says he cannot marry her at their wedding. However, during the story, Pete mainly serves as a sounding board and anxiety maker for his brother.
Paul’s other friend Jim (Shawn Hatosy) also went him with one of the “Tiki Girls” at the bar, Tonya (Lisa Calder). Jim plays up his tough guy attitude, but at the end reveals that he has fallen for the lady he met at the bar.
Additional Comic Relief
With a big wedding coming up, Paul gets surrounded with many crazy family members and friends. Paul and Karen’s families are from opposite sides of education and wealth. While Paul’s family comes across as boisterous and obnoxious, Karen’s family comes across as rigid and proper. In almost all cases, the supporting cast ends up helping Paul in some way.
Besides the friends, Paul also has a group of wacky male strangers and acquaintances to help him out. These characters include a pharmacist who pretends to be a cook for Paul (Fred Ewanuick), a clerk willing to lie about dirty underwear bins, and the father of the bride. Almost every male character helps Paul as part of “a guy thing.” This unspoken code allows Paul to largely escape accountability multiple times.
On the other side sit menacing authority figures. This includes Karen’s father, Becky’s psychopathic boyfriend Ray, and the strict and rigid minister Ferris (Larry Miller). Paul has to confronts all of them. In each one of the scenarios, one of these characters creates a threatening situation. In each situation, Paul does not find a way out as much as he gets the problem solved for him. When Karen’s father finds about Becky and everything else, he simply pretends he did not hear it. With Paul’s help, internal affairs busts Ray. Only in Minister Ferris asking if anybody has any objections does Paul finally admit that her does not love Karen.
Attorney Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) sleeps with her best friend’s fiancé Dex (Colin Egglesfield) after a night of heavy drinking. Now Rachel must decide between not hurting her best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson) and following her heart.
Something Borrowed came from a best-selling debut book of the same name by Emily Giffin. The book serves as the first in a series of books that follows Darcy and Rachel.
The World of the Film
If A Guy Thing favors the world of an outsider, then Something Borrowed favors an upper class conformist society. The film’s characters live in an upscale New York city world over the course of a summer. The characters go on vacation in the Hamptons. Throughout the film, the audience sees lots of flowers everywhere. They appear often behind characters and on women’s clothes. Everything appears in bloom in this summer film.
The characters seem less like characters and more like attitudes or traits. Rachel acts self-pitying, Darcy acts narcissistic, their friend Ethan (John Krasinski) acts resentful, and so on. Each character fits into a neat little trait without ever changing much. The film also goes out of its way to make sure the audience knows how to feel about each one of the characters. With this creative choice, the film has the audience wait for the truth to hit and wonder how it will resolve.
The film also ends with multiple destroyed or unfulfilled relationships. While Dex and Rachel are together, Rachel and Darcy have pretty much lost their friendship due to what happened with Dex. Ethan admits his feelings for Rachel, but she does not go with him. Even though the film shows Ethan unlucky in love, he ends the film without anybody he wants to be with. Darcy also appears not to end up with anybody. Along with that, the audience never gets a resolution for any of the comedic relief characters either.
A lovable yet clumsy and self-loathing woman, Rachel has just turned thirty (the opening scenes occur at a birthday party thrown by Darcy). In an opening scene, she describes herself as an old maid and her prime child-bearing years as being behind her. She sees Dex as above her and does not believe that he deserves her. At the end of the story, Rachel does get to be with Dex and stand up for herself, but the film does not suggest much of a change for her. She does not even have to make a difficult decision in the climax. Instead, Dex makes it for her and calls off the wedding. The only thing left to happen is for Darcy to find out and effectively end their friendship.
Over the course of the story, Rachel will be challenged to be true to herself. By the end, Rachel will have to make a choice about her friendships.
The Love Interest
Unlike A Guy Thing, the groom is the love interest rather than the main character. However, in both mediums, he must call off the wedding rather than the bride.
Rachel knew Dex since they met in law school six years earlier. Their meet cute involves Dex giving her his only pen after she drops all of hers. Rachel had a big crush on Dex, but the more charismatic Darcy came in and took him away.
The film gives Dex a backstory. He took care of his mother, while his mostly absent father was away. He was afraid that if he did not please her, she would leave him. The film’s point seems to be that this experience affected all of his relationships with women.
Like Paul Morse, Dex partially plans to marry Darcy because of his status in the world. His father (Geoff Pierson) approves of Darcy because she comes from the same wealthy background as them. Over the course of the story, Rachel sleeps with Dex not once, but twice. However, it also makes the point that Darcy has slept with somebody else halfway through the story.
Other readings of the film do not present Dex as a sympathetic character. In her article “Something Borrowed and the phenomenon of rom-coms that hate Women,” AVClub’s Caroline Siede describes the film as “an unintentional tragedy about a bland man destroying a lifelong friendship.” Side also compares the film to another Kate Hudson comedy, Bride Wars (2009). In that film, Hudson’s friend (Anne Hathaway) realizes that her current boyfriend is not right for her and moves onto somebody better. Something Borrowed has the lead character staying with the same guy she has known since college.
The Best Friend
Rachel has both a female and male best friend, both of whom she has known since childhood. Both provide different things to her, but neither end up with her in the end. In fact, neither end up with anybody.
Darcy has a complicated relationship with Rachel. They like each other, but Darcy seems to act in a straight up narcissistic manner that destroys her friendship with Rachel. In many ways, the character of Darcy seems more tragic than funny.
The film continues to reveal Darcy as a terrible person and a terrible choice for Dex. About halfway through, Darcy reveals that she slept with somebody else. By the end, she reveals that she has become pregnant with his child. All of this makes her ending up with Dex the most unsatisfying conclusion possible.
After all secrets get revealed, Rachel runs into Darcy months later. They do not reconcile their friendship, but Darcy does say she is happier than she has ever been. However, a post credits scene directly contradicts this point by having her chase after another guy than the one she has decided to have a child with.
Her male friend Ethan has known her and Darcy since they were children. He acts as the go-to for advice on all difficult situations. Although he likes Rachel, he has grown tired of her giving in to Darcy’s behavior, which he sees right through.
He has a minor subplot, but it never really goes anywhere. Halfway through the movie, he leaves New York for London. Unsure of what to do about her situation with Darcy, Rachel comes to visit him. In London, he admits his feelings for Rachel, but understands that she has already fallen for Dex.
A Post credits scene has Darcy showing up in London to find Ethan. In the film, it is a throwaway last joke. However, additional deleted scenes explain this relationship more. Darcy asked Ethan out in grade school. Rachel thought Darcy gave him a choice between her or Darcy, but she never did. This makes the character of Darcy even more manipulative.
Additional Comic Relief
In the film, two major comedy relief characters play minor roles in the actual story.
A skateboarding man child, Marcus (Steve Howey) knows the group through being the son of Dex’s father’s realtor. Throughout the story, he acts in a horny inappropriate way. He directs his affections to Rachel. He very publicly and graphically tells her he wanted to masturbate to her, but had erectile dysfunction. He also hits on every woman who moves while pursuing Rachel. To each woman, Marcus tells an obviously fictitious story about saving an injured chipmunk and building it a sling. Rachel does not believe it, but it works on many women.
He unexpectedly becomes connected with Darcy. He turns out to be the guy she slept with and impregnated her. She also believes the chipmunk story. The last time the audience sees him occurs when he skateboards after an angry Darcy.
A clingy lady that Ethan once slept with, Claire (Ashley Williams) keeps following him around. Knowing this, Ethan spends the whole movie trying to ditch her. He goes as far as even lying about being a homosexual. When other characters reveal this deceit, Claire asks Rachel if Ethan will ever love her and Rachel tells her she very much doubts it. This pretty much ends Claire’s plot in the movie.
Throughout the film, the filmmakers dress Claire in wild patterns to direct the wackiness and absurdity of her behavior. To suggest the incompatibility of her with Ethan in certain scenes, they present her against warmer colors while presenting Paul against cooler colors, such as blues, blacks, and purples.
In both films, the characters find themselves in a really immoral and compromising situation. Both cases sidestep any complicated moral questions by justifying such behavior. All the characters getting married must decide not to marry a character the films knows is wrong for them. Only a random encounter with the right person will straighten them out.