Conversation carries 'Certified Copy'

Filmgoers who love movies in all their esoteric forms will enjoy "Certified Copy." It is intriguing, unpredictable and even surreal. It is also a film carried by conversation.

To review the film is dicey. It must be experienced by the filmgoer fresh and without expectation.

"Certified Copy" opens with Elle (Juliette Binoche), the owner of a small antique shop in Tuscany, attending a lecture and book signing by noted art authority James Miller. He discusses the importance of art and its facsimiles, dwelling on original art versus that which is forged.

Seemingly taken with the author, she invites him to take a drive to Lucignano, a lovely village outside of Tuscany where couples go to marry in a small chapel, believing it will assure them of happiness together.

James implies that courtship and the years following marriage are false (a forgery?), a romantic illusion, and not representative of what their life will be like later, after years of living together. She disagrees and challenges him over coffee in a small café. While he takes a phone call, she discusses men and marriage with the owner, an older woman, who assumes James and Elle are married.

As it turns out, Elle finds James imperious, cold and surprisingly cerebral given the surroundings. Their conversations turn unexpectedly brittle, remarkable for two strangers who seem to share a similar interest in art, even the esoteric niche James explores in his book, "Certified Copy."

And so, what began as a pleasant afternoon, surrounded by the verdant beauty of Tuscany as well as Lucignano, evolves into something completely unexpected.

The challenge of the film is to be able to sustain a feeling that the narrative has come unhinged, while still remaining engaged and willing to contemplate the questions it poses regarding art and love and marriage.

Julliet Binoche won Best Actress in 2010 at Cannes Film Festival for her performance in "Certified Copy." And indeed she is lovely and subtle and able to emote very complex emotions with merely a look or the set of her mouth or the narrowing of her eyes. It's a tour de force portrayal by this gifted performer in a seriously enigmatic movie, the first director Kiarostami has made outside of Iran.

Something Borrowed

"Something Borrowed" is all about triangulation. But then triangles are a staple of romantic comedies; in fact, they're a staple of the human experience. Triangulation is familiar behavior involving three people, two are on the inside of a situation or issue or complaint and one is on the outside, essentially unaware.

Triangles can be wicked. And they can be a source of endless comedic situations, which is why Hollywood writers return so often to this particular well. As they have in "Something Borrowed."

Darcy (Kate Hudson) and Rachel (Gennifer Goodwin) are best friends forever. They are also opposites. Darcy is, well, a bit shallow and self-absorbed, as well as spontaneous and glowing. Rachel is a down-to-earth, hardworking lawyer. She also finds it incredibly difficult to tell Darcy what it is she wants. And what she wants, with all her heart, is fellow law school study partner, Dex (Colin Egglesfield).

When Darcy, Dex and Kate meet for drinks, and Darcy settles her strobe light gaze on Dex, she asks Rachel if she would mind if Dex asks her out. Rachel, her heart yearning to declare her real feelings for Dex, lies and insists that she and Dex are just good friends. As a result, she hands Darcy Dex, masking her deep reluctance as well as sadness.

And so the triangle is constructed. What happens next gets complicated, then more complicated, as Rachel and Dex, like two magnets, are drawn to each other despite the impending wedding being planned for Darcy and Dex. All of the above is part of the setup.

Now Rachel's other BBF is Ethan (John Krasinski), with whom she shares her dilemma. Another triangle. Of course there's a member of the group, a young woman, who is crazy about Ethan, a problem he shares with Rachel "… and so it goes. These rom-coms can begin to look like a geodesic dome designed by Buckminister Fuller.

Here's the relevant question: is "Something Borrowed" all glove and no hit? Well, no. It does have its moments (more than a few) that are charming and engaging. As well, it's filled with actors who are charming and engaging and who are given an interesting, if predictable, plot to unwind.

Of course, the triangle between Darcy and Dex and Rachel is not equilateral, its hypotenuse, with Kate Hudson doing all the heavy lifting, portraying with panache the selfish — doesn't the world always revolve around me? — Darcy. Hudson generally portrays a far more sympathetic character. In fact, her career has been framed by her ability to be sincere, or at least earnest, while also being luminescent and perpetually aglow.

This is not the first rom-com that would have been resolved early had everyone simply told the truth, from the get-go. But then what's a rom-com for if not to dissemble and triangulate while creating moments that are if not farcical at least laced with humor?

Actually, "Something Borrowed" could've been a bit more edgy if it were not so completely burnished of all burrs and rough spots. But it is, in sum, pleasant and winning. A surprise, really, since most of these romantic comedies, which Hollywood is turning out by the gross, so to speak, often disappoint. "Something Borrowed" doesn't. Note: the words chick flick do not appear in this review.

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