How to be Single Review
HOW TO BE “SEX IN THE CITY”-ISH
In real life, it can be hard to find your “Mr. Right” or “Mrs. Right”. With millions of people out there in the world, the idea of finding your soulmate is trial and error process of several courtships of dating. Some are lucky in find the right choice on the first go-round (marrying their high school / college / childhood sweetheart, while others might spend years trying to find the romantic companion, and some will never find one (or weren’t looking for in the first place). All in all, finding your particular “romance” in life is an endeavor that most people strive for and handled in different ways. Warner Bros. Pictures and director Christian Ditter make that point in their new movie How to be Single. Does this movie find its true love connection or is it a hodgepodge of romantic ideas?
In a long-term relationship with boyfriend Josh (Nicolas Braun), Alice (Dakota Johnson) breaks away from her college sweetheart before moving to New York City, trying to experience the “single life” that she never knew before being locked down in a commitment. Quick to make friends with her co-worker Robin (Rebel Wilson), a skilled happy partying single life, duo takes to the town with Robin teaching Alice her ways of exploring the “rock star” life of being single in the NYC. Eventually, Alice works through several partners to find herself, including businessman / single dad David (Damon Wayans Jr.), but can’t get Josh out her head, horrified to learn he’s already moved on and found another girlfriend. Alice’s sister Meg (Leslie Mann) is a single middle age obstetrician who, longing to have child of her own, turns to artificial insemination before she meets Ken (Jake Lacy), an eager young man who’s quite taken with hesitant woman. Additionally, Tom (Anders Holm), a skilled ladies-man bartender, has eyes for Lucy (Alison Brie), an uptight, unmarried woman, who’s hunting for her perfect partner.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
Right now (currently), I’m single and, once I get myself established in my life (career, house, money in the bank, etc.), I start my search for my “Mrs. Right”. That’s not to say that I’m looking for her right now (Hint, hint…ladies), but I want to secure my own life down before bringing another person into it. Anyways, I remember seeing the trailer for How to be Single and thought it was pretty funny. However, given its release date was coming out the same time as Deadpool (which I loved), so I decided to see that movie first and then go see How to be Single. My initial verdict for the movie, it’s a slightly more sophisticated romantic comedy than other iterations, but it’s still overly familiar and can’t discern itself from its genre. In short, good, but not great.
How to be Single is directed by Christian Ditter, who previously directed films like The Crocodiles and Love, Rosie. As the movie is based on the book of the same name by Liz Tuccillo (she was the co-author of He’s Just Not That Into You‘s source material), How to be Single fits squarely on millennial generation, giving various perspectives on dating tips, tricks, ploys, and relationship decision that many face in today’s modern times. While Alice’s storyline is the film primary narrative, Ditter juggles the multiple story threads, weaving in and out of Alice’s narration, but always coming back to her character and the love trials she faces. It’s an effective film tactic, shifting the storyline smooth and at a brisk pace and Johnson does do a good job here as Alice (more on that below), while you do get a sense (as a viewer) that the cast of the movie is having a good time in making this movie, which is always a good thing.
Production-wise, How to be Single is shot beautifully, using New York City as the film’s backdrop with a gleaming polish to it that still grounded in reality (and not a glorified version of the cityscape). It does capture the movie’s setting, capturing the energy of the city as well as its lifestyle for young people looking for love. Even the music selection for the movie is pretty good, offering plenty toe-tapping or recognizable songs throughout the feature. So, even if you don’t like the movie, your ears will get a positive enjoyment out of it.
Unfortunately, How to be Single has a fair share of criticism. No matter how much Ditter and his team dress up the feature, it can’t escape from being an unmistakable illusion to HBO’s popular series Sex in the City. Premise (a group of girls looking for love and dabble in various relationships) and location (set in New York City) are the key culprits in that association and just feels like glossier “millennial” version of it. Additionally, the How to be Single plays and fast loose with its story, skimming by key sequences of character growth, which could have helped the film’s narration in the process. As for the film’s narration, it still has the commonplace troupes found in a traditional / standard romantic comedy, resulting in the movie to be lacking originality and being slightly predictable. Even the film’s comedy is a tad bit problematic, with some of its jokes and gags not properly landing the way it was intended. I actually only laughed at a handful of moments. In short, while Sex and the City had 94 episodes (and two movies) to tell its story, How to be Single lacks the substance it needs to fully explore and exam the various ways courting a person in a relationship.
The cast in How to be Single is actually pretty good, consisting of a charismatic group that stay the course throughout the movie. Dakota Johnson, most notable from Fifty Shades of Grey, plays the character of Alice and is pretty much the central character in the movie. Surprisingly, despite her sort of “vanilla” performance in Fifty Shades, Johnson does bring high quality of character in Alice than she did in Anastasia. Rebel Wilson is in fine form as Robin, Alice’s boisterous best friend, as the film utilizes Wilson’s comedic personality for her character for maximum potential. Similarly, Leslie Mann’s Meg, Alice’s sister, has the comedic chops to produce a lot of laughs with her character’s situation. Alison Brie and Anders Holm get the short end of the straw with their characters of Lucy and Tom, with less screen time and are more thinly drawn than the mentioned characters above. Although, Brie and Holm handle themselves well with their playful moments together.
Adding to the movie’s counterpart of love, How to Be Single’s cast is rounded out by supporting actors who help elevate the movie from the usual standard rom-com. The “key” supporting characters include Nicholas Braun as Alice’s “ex”-boyfriend Josh, Jason Mantzoukas as George, a future dating prospect for Lucy, Damon Wayans Jr. as David, a single dad and dating prospect for Alice, and Jake Lacy as Ken, who’s very smitten with Meg (even though she tries to push him away). However, similar to what I said about Brie and Holm’s characters, some of these side characters could’ve been further developed to better understand them and their respective character counterparts. Still, the characters are enjoyable as they played by charismatic individuals, regardless if they are written weakly.
Love, sex, and independency are in the air in the movie How to be Single. This newest rom-com deals with the trials and tribulations of today’s millennial generation, offering plenty of “young adult” choices (from the movie’s cast) on their ambiguous courtship of their own personal “relationship status”. However, the movie’s humor is slightly unbalanced and its premise feels very derivative from other similar narratives out there and comes off as a clunky and generic (dare I say cliché) feature of young people finding love. Its idea is palpable, but its charm doesn’t get the mileage it needs to succeed in the long run. Personally, it was just an okay movie and something that people would probably label as a “chick flick” or a “date night movie”. If your movie field doesn’t fit into that category, then How to be Single won’t offer anything to satisfy your viewing experience.
3.2 Out of 5 (Iffy Choice / Rent It)
Reviewed on February 20th, 2016
How to be Single is rated R for sexual content and strong language throughout