How To Be Single Review - The art of being alone even when you're trying really, really hard not to be
For a feature film entitled How to be Single (2016), Warner Brother’s newest rom-com certainly spends a lot of time showing us what it means to be in a relationship rather than alone. There’s a serial hook-up harlequin, a woman who decides to settle down and have a baby, and another young female looking for her Mr Right. None of these however, are our lead protagonist, the one who teaches us the real moral of not how to be single, but the age old question of why.
The story follows Alice, a recent college graduate played by the doe-eyed Dakota Johnson, who decides to take a break from dating her college sweetheart Josh to move to the Big Apple, pursue a job as a paralegal, and find out who she is when she’s alone. Her first day in the office is no walk in the park however, as she is befriended by Robin, played by the boisterous Rebel Wilson, a hilarious desk-mate who acts as the proverbial devil on her shoulder, steering her in the direction of fun, frivolity, and the art of being frisky. After just one racy rendezvous with local man Tom the Bartender, our plucky protagonist sees the error of her ways, squandering the rest of the 2-hour run-time pining after her lost (and long moved on) love, playing family with a widow, and notching up a number of other marks on her bedpost. Rounding out the main quartet is Meg, Alice’s neurotic (not crazy, never crazy…) obstetrician sister, who is seeking neither a baby nor a man at the start of the film, and somehow manages to find both by the time the credits role, and Lucy a woman who has narrowed down the dating pool to a percentage of eligible men equal to that of half a crushed peanut.
Basically, How to Be Single is a film about three women learning how not to be single, playing remarkably like this decade’s version of He’s Just Not That Into You (2009), flaunting a stellar cast, a flimsy script, and a lot of gags to keep you going. In saying that, like the aforementioned film though, it’s not a bad journey. We learn the art of self-discovery, are given a lesson in growing-up, and feel ourselves rise to that sense of maturity we all found thrust upon ourselves at the tender age of twenty-one, when we left home / university / our first job, and had to ask what the hell were we doing? Most importantly, it reminds us that happy endings are not always found in a guy and a girl falling madly in love. Sometimes they are found in madly loving yourself.
Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox’s screenplay is at times startlingly refreshingly, proving a winner in its unprecedented gender equality. Not only does it imply that girls can party hard, decide to ‘take a break’ in a relationship, or choose to sleep around without consequence, but they reinforce these ideas without making a fuss or calling attention to them. This is the twenty-first century, and for once women are just as entitled as men. Christian Ditter rightly deserves some praise here too for the direction of his second English language book adaptation; however he must also cop some flak for his driftless and formulaic choices. It’s a good film, just not a great one.
Bumping the film up though are the performances of leads Wilson and Johnson, the former bringing the laughs big-time, firing off her now iconic brand of humour with startling precision. Not only does she nail a beautiful sequence in which her character tries to prove she can cure a hangover, get her hair and make-up done, and get to work in less than twenty minutes, but her riffing prowess in describing Alice’s down-town area by referencing Gandalf is legendary. Johnson too is a wonder, proving herself one of the best young actresses around at the moment. No matter how hard you want to hate her for signing on to the Fifty Shades of Grey (2015) trilogy, she is charming and compelling here, if only a little bit bland.
This isn’t a film of blockbuster proportion. Or a smart and sexy indie soiree. It’s a rom-com, pitched as a rom-com, which finds itself… you guessed it… focusing on romance and comedy. Like the proverbial dilemma of who came first the chicken or the egg, How to Be Single teaches you that knowing yourself helps you appreciate who you become in a relationship, and that loving someone helps you learn how to handle yourself when you’re alone. And it’s okay to be alone. To be single. To relish the moment when you are finally not tied by invisible heartstrings to another human being.
Rating: 3 Lonely Hearts out of 5
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