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Romance, With Brains 

Ginnifer Goodwin in her first leading role adds a little thought — and self-loathing — to the rom-com world.

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In the first of what’s surely to be two movies based on Emily Giffin’s novels Something Borrowed and Something Blue, all of the main players are trotted out before we can figure out what anyone is doing ... or who they’re doing it with.

Some pals are throwing a 30th birthday party for Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin). The party is run by her best friend, Darcy (Kate Hudson), who’s well aware that Rachel doesn’t like to be the center of attention. Then there’s Ethan (John Krasinski), who might have a thing for Rachel, but it looks like she only wants him as a friend.

And Dex (Colin Egglesfield), who’s going to marry Darcy in a couple of months. But aren’t there some strange looks going back and forth between Dex and Rachel?

The film ends up focusing mostly on sweet, unhappy Rachel. She’s not in any kind of a romantic relationship right now, and she confides in Ethan, worrying that it’s getting close to being past her prime childbearing years.

Suddenly we’re flashing back to Rachel having an obvious crush on Dex when they were in law school together, where they had many good but chaste times. Hold on, isn’t that about when she introduced Dex to Darcy?

But before we’re allowed to think too much about couples, the movie tries to interest us in what makes each of these folks tick.

Rachel is so adverse to confrontation that she allows others to walk all over her. Darcy is a pushy, obnoxious dumbbell who doesn’t even realize that she regularly uses Rachel as a doormat. Dex is, simply, a confused young man. Ethan is the film’s voice of reason, but no one is listening.

The script ends up pretty much where you think it’s going to, but it takes a few too many curves to get there, tossing in a number of uneventful side stories.

Acting-wise, Krasinski’s got dibs on charming guy roles. He’s a pleasure to hang out with here. Newcomer Egglesfield makes Dex seem genuinely lost, but his performance has a dull edge to it. Hudson overdoes it to the point that Darcy becomes despicable. The character is unable to garner any audience sympathy when it’s called for.

Fortunately, there’s Goodwin, in her first real lead role, after a decade of supporting parts. Not everyone is going to be rooting for Rachel at every moment because she does make some thoughtless decisions. But Goodwin manages to keep a strong balance to Rachel’s good and bad sides. It’s easily her best role to date, and she handles the lead without breaking a sweat.

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