How to be Single
I know you all will have been waiting on tenterhooks to see Liz Tuccillo’s book “How to be Single” brought to the big screen, and you need wait no more. Ok, maybe we haven’t, but as it is out, how was an evening in the cinema watching director Christian Ditter’s (Love, Rosie) adaption? Read on and I shall do my best to convey the experience to you.
We meet our heroine Alice (Dakota Johnson) as she meets her college sweetheart, Josh (Nicholas Braun), and then immediately jump four years down the line to her deciding that they need to “take a break” to “find themselves”. So far, so cliché, but wait this isn’t just a story about her, there are threads. And through these we meet Tom (Anders Holm), the guy that owns and runs a bar, yet suspiciously never seems to be serving drinks, doesn’t seem to have any staff, and can spend his time hitting on girls instead. Above the bar we have Lucy, played by the ever excellent Alison Brie, who is a bit kookie, obsessed with finding “the One”, and uses Tom’s WiFi to run her online dating algorithms. Also, on her first day in her new job, Alice meets Robin (Rebel Wilson), who is all about the single life, and getting free drinks, and convinces Alice to go to Tom’s bar to learn how to be single. Lastly, during the obligatory morning after hangover scene, we meet Meg (Leslie Mann), Alice’s older sister, a doctor, and the reason for a vein popping out my head at one point in the movie.
What links all these characters? Come on, I’m sure you can guess….. That’s right, they are all single, and coping with it in different ways. Alice has always been in relationships, so struggles to find what she wants in life out-with that dynamic. Robin is a party girl, and quite happy with her lot, so long as the booze keeps flowing and the men keep coming. Lucy is neurotic, and scares guys off as she is so desperate to be in a relationship, get married, and have babies. Tom is a man-whore, but we’re told it’s OK to think of him like that, because he’s honest about it, and we know by the end of the film he’ll learn to let the idea of love into his cold heart. Lastly, we have Meg, who starts the film as a completely together woman, happy in her job, doesn’t like babies, and wants to continue in her career. Which is of course, a completely valid, and kinda awesome life choice that I was quite impressed Hollywood was going with, seemed like a refreshing change…oh wait a minute, someone left her with a baby for five minutes and now all she wants is to get pregnant, so bring on the sperm donor catalogue.
And that’s the problem with this film, especially with the Tom and Meg characters. Every one of them have made perfectly decent life choices. Yes, there are ups and downs with the decisions they all make, but we are fed the Hollywood, borderline puritanical, line that some of them need “fixed”. By the end of the film Meg has a baby, and a handy guy that wants to be a stay home dad, so she can have it all. Tom, after being literally handed to Alice at one point by Robin as the ideal “palate cleanser” like he’s a handy New York utility, grows as a human being and thinks he’s in love. It turns out he isn’t, but he likes the idea after-all, so time for a short montage of him altering his ways. Lucy meets the one, but it’s not those pesky algorithms that brought them together, it was her being kookie in a bookshop. Robin continues on as she always has, and Alice learns to be ok with herself and grow as an individual.
One last dig I can’t help but make is nit-picking in the extreme, but sometimes I can’t help myself. There is a birthday party scene (of course there was going to be a birthday party scene), where all the main characters are in attendance. It’s Alice’s Birthday, and you can understand most of them being there, however Lucy and her “the One” are in attendance too, yet they have never met Alice. I know Lucy needed to be there to tie up a plot point, but it got to me is all, so I felt the need to share.
I would feel bad, and plaster “Spoiler Alert” at the start of the review, but all the story arcs are so hackneyed and tired that I would worry if anyone actually needed the warning. I know I’m not the target audience for this tale, and the screening I was at had a good few folks that seemed to be having a whale of a time, but you have to ask if we shouldn’t be expecting better from this genre by now. Even if we look back to last year’s excellent Sleeping With Other People, we can see that it’s possible to give us a new angle and a new take on standard tropes. Don’t get me wrong, this is not the worst film you could watch, however for all the practice studios have making these, we should hope for and expect better.
Even taking into account the tired nature of the story, the director does a decent enough job of keeping the film moving along. Technically there are a couple of neat shots, Alice moving into her flat is subtle but impressive for it. Performances are pretty good. Rebel Wilson does what Rebel Wilson does, and if you like that, you’ll leave the cinema a happy bunny. Dakota Johnson’s performance is a little shallow, but I think that is a problem with the character rather than any deficit in her abilities. Leslie Mann, once I got over my nervous tick at the direction they took her character, is likable as always. The standouts are without doubt Anders Holm and Alison Brie. The screen is better for having the two of them on it, and they elevate the movie considerably with their performances.
Should you go see How to be Single? Well, if you are a fan of Rom-Coms, or want something that is very much by the numbers, you could do worse. Personally I did chuckle on occasion, and some of the performances did raise it up a bit, but you will not be challenged by this, and you probably won’t be that entertained either. It’s the cinematic equivalent of having the radio on in the car. It’s not engaging enough to distract from a more important task, but it does stop you from falling asleep.
• Alison Brie & Anders Holm
• Some nice directorial touches
• the formula
• judgmental attitudes to life-choices
• some irritating characters