“The thing about being single is you should cherish it..” The thing about How to be Single is you should run from it.
After four years of college, young Alice (Dakota Johnson) decides she needs a break from her long-term boyfriend Josh. Excited and ready for new challenges, the eager grad moves to New York to take a job as a paralegal. Helping her navigate her way through an unfamiliar city is Robin (Rebel Wilson), a fun-loving, wild co-worker who enjoys partying and one-night stands. With Robin as her freewheeling guide, Alice can now learn how to get free drinks, meet men and enjoy the single lifestyle.
Valentine’s Day is quite possibly the most ridiculous holiday ever created. It’s the single most vapid, and superficial of the bunch, and as so, is ripe for the taking in Hollywood. Valentine’s Day serves as the the single most overused place point for bad romantic comedies to date. The industry has made an already absurd day into a complete black hole of pink hearts and broken dreams. The fact is from the adolescence till death we have been conditioned to believe that to be alone on this most shallow of days, is an egregious misstep against the fabric of humanity. The film How to Be Single would have you believe it is counter programming to the classic love laden films that normally douse the moviegoing public in an even amount of spoiled love potion, but it’s really more reprehensible than any of those sad excuses for films. As much as the creative team here tries to denounce the innocuous films like Sex and The City, it actually is far more hollow and less original than it lets on.
The bubble from which these character seemingly reside, is so unrealistically upbeat, that it becomes vomit inducing at times. How to Be Single ticks every box similar genre films have previously laid out making for an incredibly uninspired and unoriginal story filled with life sized Barbie Dolls that never fully emerge from the contrived stereotypes they are lumped into. It becomes so arduous to hear these entitled millenials drone on about how hard their lives are, when they have seemingly overcome zero challenges and faced no real scrutiny. The characters spend their days trying to fit into the molds that their society has laid out for them. They stroll about town trolling for men and thirsting for attention. The overlaying story tries so hard to convince the audience that this not about romance, but about finding oneself in the midst of the single life and learning that to be alone is not without it’s beauty. The problem is the film fails miserably in its task and produced some of the most obnoxious moments in rom-com history. How To Be Single is reminiscent of the female version of the Zac Efron film We Are Your Friends. It has some entertainment, and it resides in a world where to be self centered is to be normal. It’s full of whiney characters that cry wolf at life’s most basic obstacles.
Throughout our tale were met with a gaggle of women each with their own set of issues that as the film moves forward we learn are all mostly self inflicted. First there is Alice, who decides after four years that she needs a break from her otherwise wonderful boyfriend to find herself in the big city, adopting the “if it’s meant to be, it will be” attitude. All of this essentially just means that she wants to get a dead end job, move in with her wealthy sister, get really drunk all the time, and sleep with an openly sleazy bartender on the regular. Alice meets Robin, who is a free wheeling wild card, who cracks wise, and is apparently incapable of any emotional commitment. Alice’s sister, Meg, is a thirty something doctor who is just too busy for a real relationship, but still feels she is ready for a baby, and comes to the realization that she don’t need no stinkin’ man to have it all! Each one of these characters is more unoriginal than the last, and moreover terribly unlikeable to boot. Then there is Lucy, whose neurotic quest for love is shoehorned into the plot. You see, Lucy has no interaction with any of our other lovely women, and her only connection to anything in this story is that she is friends with Tom (Anders Holm), the aforementioned sleazy bartender. In fact it is maddening trying to figure out why Lucy is in this movie at all except to fill out deadspace. It’s almost as if the writers didn’t have enough pages and so they invented a fourth character because even numbers are more aesthetically pleasing.
There is a message behind this puddle deep tale of monotony, but that message is smothered in dim witted storytelling. It’s attempting to advocate the importance of learning to know and love ones self rather than being defined by a significant other, but How To Be Single spends most of it’s run time tripping over every rom-com trope ever invented. It doesn’t attempt to truly convey the underlying message until the late proceedings, but by then, it has made such an absolute mess of things that it has to use a gratuitous voiceover to get it’s point across. What is most annoying is the lack of care that goes into the writing. The characters never feel like real people and never seem to encounter any realistic situations. Alice lives in a really nice bohemian studio apartment for which she has all this time and money to fill it with cool things, but she is a paralegal, with a bachelors in who knows what, because why should we care what her real life’s ambitions are. We just want to see her sleep with and date a bunch of guys until she figures out that she can be single and happy right? There is never any mention of work stress or student loan debt. We never learn about her family background, or get any exposition into herself, even anecdotally. The film is content packaging her to a neat and tidy little box, where her only emotions are towards the relationships she shares with the various men she encounters. Robin is the same character that Rebel Wilson is in every single movie. She is the fun loving devil may care lady who is the pure embodiment of the “girls just wanna have fun” movement, but again there isn’t an ounce of depth to be had with her. Meg is a successful doctor (At least we think, they never really tell us much about this), but she is unfulfilled because she is alone, so she want to fill her emptiness with a baby. She becomes just another cliche, and lacks a much needed epilogue to her current situation. Lucy is the super neurotic over thinker, and we still can’t figure out why she’s here other than the writers really like Allison Brie and felt the need to force feed us a tedious character so she could have a place in the film. The performances are surprisingly gratifying, but are doomed to be condemned, as they go down with the ship in this dull and ostensibly obnoxious failed attempt at female empowerment.
How To Be Single is not without it’s entertainment value. Some of the jokes land, and the performances overcome dreadful writing allowing for moments of real sincerity to slip through the cracks. But these moments are fleeting and fade as quickly as they came. The universe this film creates is one where everyone has infinite money, and no real problems except for their love lives. This is a candy coated fluff piece that plays like a reheated sub plot from an old Sex and The City episode. This is a truly anti-feminist film, that Hollywood knows the fairer sex will flock to, if not for it’s title alone, on a holiday where people are looking for a little warmth. It’s is full of manufactured moments that lack subtlety and come off as achingly annoying. There is some amusement to be had, but the film is nowhere near as raunchy or funny as it wants to be, and is uneven and out of focus througout. How to Be Single likes to think that it is liberating these women, but instead it stuffs them into these cliche little boxes and duct tapes them off until they suffocate. The film opens by bellowing “Why do we always have to tell stories through relationships?” It then proceeds to give us 100 minutes of story, told entirely through relationships. Through the muck there is a message worth listening too, but it gets lost in the shuffle and the movie just can’t seem to get out of it’s own way.
2/5 Do Better Bro