Feb 212016
How To Be Single poster
Title: How to Be Single
Director: Christian Ditter
Starring: Dakota Johnson,
Rebel Wilson,
Alison Brie,
Leslie Mann,
Genre: Romance, Comedy
Runtime: 1 Hour 50 mins
Music: Fil Eisler
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Certificate: US: R
UK: 15
Release Date: US: Feb 12 2016
UK: Feb 19 2016
See If You Like: Trainwreck,
Love Actually,

Yet another ensemble ‘romance’ picture, How To Be Single tries to capture the heart of Love Actually, yet plays out more like a wannabe Woody Allen script, as it follows a trio of single women (all with slightly inter-connected stories) through their busy New York lives.

Alice (Dakota Johnson, 50 Shades of Grey) dumps her boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun, Date and Switch), and finds a new friend Robin (Rebel Wilson, Pitch Perfect) to show her how to be single; cue night-clubs, one-night-stands, discussions on the ‘right’ way to be single (i.e. score free drinks from gullible and inferior men, pubic shaving, and the ‘right’ amount of time to wait before texting back), and Dakota winding up unsure how to proceed with three guys; a fairly generic single persons rom-com.

Community‘s Alison Brie and This Is 40 star Leslie Mann pick up the parts of How To Be Single’s other independent single women; respectively playing a neurotic young woman named Lucy who hangs out at a bar all day to use the landlord’s free wifi while she uses several algorithms to find the perfect man online (cue scores of multiple bad dates where hunky bartender Tom – The Intern‘s Anders Holm – swoops to the rescue), and a neurotic doctor (who happens to be Alice’s older sister) who’s always put her career before her love-life, but has just reached the point where she decides she may want a baby. You can probably guess how they both play out, though while clichéd in every way, at least one of them doesn’t end the way you expect it to.

In fact much of your enjoyment of this film will depend on how conventional you like your movies to wind up; not everything is tired up with a neat little bow and given a traditional ‘happy’ ending. It’s often refreshing to see something different or more realistic (500 Days Of Summer and High Fidelity are great examples), but the problem with How To Be Single, the reason it’s so mind-numbingly unfulfilling, is practically none of the characters pictured have any chartable journey; from night-club to night-club, one-night-stand to relationship, there’s next to no progression, and it feels as if you’re simply watching the same two-and-a-half scenes over and over and over again on a seemingly endless loop.

How To Be Single 01 Dakota Johnson Rebel Wilson

Things aren’t helped by having a character as unlikeable as Alice leading the film; sure everyone can relate to her young-and-dumb, unsure of which direction to lead her life, situation, but as the seasons roll on (blandly referencing every major holiday celebrated in NYC – with the exception of Thanksgiving) and she makes no discernible effort to progress, things become tiresome. It’s oddly the supporting characters who’s journey’s are more fulfilling; while Rebel’s Robin is sadly reduced to yet another comedy sidekick (isn’t it time someone gave Ms. Wilson her own film?), Lucy’s journey is enjoyably short (though paper-thin plot-wise), and Meg’s (Leslie Mann’s) is the most traditional, and fulfillingly concluded, of the trio.

It’s also oddly the lads who seem to go through the biggest transformations; much ado is made about Tom’s singleton lifestyle (sleeping with any woman who enters his bar – but could he be ignoring ‘Ms Right’?); a father (Damon Wayans Jr., Lets Be Cops) struggles with how relationships affect him and his young daughter; and while not necessarily a transformation/journey Ken (Jake Lacy, Carol) is consistently the nicest person ever; a strange and unexpected turn in a film aimed primarily at women.

How To Be Single 03 Alison Brie

Still casting was solid, and overall the cast was very likeable; Dakota Johnson continues to be divisive, but fits into Alice’s pouty persona well enough; Alison Brie is fun yet underused; and while Leslie Mann does a fantastic job as Alice’s neurotic sister (often being the funniest of the group) she’s once again playing the same whiny supporting character we’ve seen her portray so many times (she’s more than capable of leading her own movie, and showing some range). Lacy, Wayans Jr., Holm, Braun, and Rebel also put in decent turns as their respective characters, though none aside from Rebel are especially memorable.

Most major How To Be Single problems then come down to writing; it lacks the fun of Trainwreck and films such as Walk of Shame, it’s thoroughly lacking in the comedy department (there’s barely a laugh to be had, and one ‘beaver-shaving’ discussion is so lame it seems as though they couldn’t even decide which line to use; so instead deliver five or six consecutive “you’re hairy” jokes in an attempt to up the hilarity), and despite a strong cast it doesn’t even have characters which are likeable enough to carry it through the monotony.

How To Be Single 02 Dakota Johnson Leslie Mann

Love, Rosie director Christian Ditter does a decent job with the material given, is great at getting the most from the cast, and framing single-life in New York (the city looks just as inviting, enticing, and intimidating to a singleton as it should), and the soundtrack is on point (though will undoubtedly sound outdated in three years time), but sadly it’s not enough to save this repetitive, dull, uneventful, unfunny, emotionally-starved and thoroughly forgettable film from itself.

True, I’m far from the target audience for How To Be Single, and as such you might enjoy it far more than me. Certainly anyone who’s read the book (the film is based on Liz Tuccillo’s novel of the same name) will want to give it a look. Though as it’s neither conventional enough to pull the heart strings, or raunchy enough to be properly funny, and often falls into the trap of obeying the conventions it attempts to avoid, you’re better off sticking with a classic (While You Were Sleeping), a ruder chick-flick (Bridesmaids), or something a little bit different but far superior (Two Night Stand).

Matt Wheeldon@TheMattWheeldon.

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