So I watched How To Be Single…
I’m a huge fan of romance and relationships in film. It can be sappy but I’m a sucker for that emotional swell in the centre of my chest as a happy couple kiss while a cheesy pop song plays and takes us into the credits. I’m also a fan of non-conventional love stories where the focus isn’t so much on the actual couple but rather the rules and protocols of the dating world. So, for this reason, I was quite excited to watch this movie; unfortunately this film never quite settles down and becomes the movie it promised to be.
Okay, basic plot: After Alice (Dakota Johnson) breaks up with her longtime boyfriend (citing that she needs to find out who she is outside of the relationship) she moves to New York to begin working as a paralegal. At her firm, Alice befriends party-animal, Robin (Rebel Wilson) who takes Alice under her wing and teaches her how much fun being single can be. As Alice traverses the pleasures and dangers of singledom, she discovers that being single isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be and that journeys of self-discovery often lead to unwanted revelations.
This movie suffers from Russian Nesting Doll Sickness (RNDS). What’s RNDS you ask? It’s a condition where a good movie is trapped inside an average/poor movie. This movie is not what its trailer nor its title promise. I was expecting a exploratory guide into the world of singledom. A movie that has moments of education and introspection weaved into its humour and entertainment. Something akin to Hitch or Think Like A Man; where you’re watching a movie with exaggerated pieces of reality that contain grounded aspects of that reality that you can relate to and learn from. How To Be Single lacks focus and skips between being this rulebook on single life and just being an average comedy.
This film’s most fundamental problem is a lack of cohesion. This movie follows the life of five different types of single people: 1. Alice, the newly-single; 2. Robin, the single-by-choice party animal; 3. Meg (Alice’s sister), the single looking to start a family on her own; 4. Lucy, the single but desperately trying to find a husband and 5. Tom, the single, casual hook-up artist. Now having these different individual characters and stories works fine but only if you tie them all together well. So each character having individual adventures is fine as long as they report back to the group and create one unified story. How To Be Single doesn’t do this. It has its individual characters running around without a central narrative tying them all together. This leads to a movie that feels disjointed, cramped and scatter-brained.
On top of this, this film is lacking a sense of purpose. There were so many times that I caught myself wondering, “where is this going?” and “what’s the point of this?”. Our characters (with the exception of two) aren’t chasing anything or working towards a goal. We know where the characters are going to end up but this is because we’ve watched movies before and know the drill; not because the character’s actions leads us anywhere. Which leads me to my next problem with the film – the poor writing. I hate it when a film tells me things instead of showing me things. Rather than having a character state that they have a friendship with another character, show me the two characters hanging out. Rather than having a character say they’re sad, show me the character crying. This isn’t a radio ad where the only information I have comes from what you tell me, display information. Visuals are as important as words, sometimes even more so.
The problem that comes with telling the audience information and not showing them is that it creates hollow foundations. If your friend tells you that they have a Ferrari but you never see it, you’re less likely to believe them than if you had seen it with your own eyes. Same applies to movies. You’re telling me that people are friends but I don’t truly buy into it because I haven’t seen it. My inability to buy into that premise leads to me being unable to care when this supposed ‘friendship’ is threatened. This, in turn, leads to the tension around the friendship feeling manufactured and ersatz which makes the movie feel less engaging. Long story short, SHOW ME people being friends, please!
This movie isn’t all bad though – in fact, it’s quite funny. The four leads – Dakota Johnson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann and Rebel Wilson put in good performances packed with humour. I felt Alison Brie was an underutilised commodity with her character being relegated to the periphery but this stems from the movie’s lack of coherence. The moments where the movie settles into rhythm and provides insight into the world of single life is when How To Be Single is at its best.
Overall, How To Be Single is quite disappointment. The movie it is, is alright but the movie it could have been is so much better and the gap in quality between the two is glaring. This movie is worth watching but doesn’t warrant a need to go to the cinema. Catch it at home or online. 6/10