How to be Single Review: Sexual Rumspringa

Chad White
Loves: Romcoms, Alison Brie
Likes: Rebel Wilson’s wacky antics
Dislikes: Lazy writing, ex machinas
Hates: Coincidences

Welcome to the party.

Charm can only take a movie so far. Based on aesthetics alone, How to Be Single is in the same visual arena as a popular science fiction movie like Interstellar. It looks crisp and clean in the lights of New York City as the viewer goes on a misshapen journey with four – or is it five or six – often outspoken but never truly defined characters who all want the same thing: to not be alone. But this is How to Be Single, a movie where that aims to teach you by its conclusion how to be single. Does it sincerely teach lessons on what it takes to be comfortable with one’s self or is this just more Valentine’s Day fodder for the female crowd?

How to Be Single is, in short, a movie about dealing with a break up, growing from past experiences, and moving on. The cast is led by Dakota Johnson who plays Alice after she (read: SHE) breaks up with her boyfriend, Josh (Nicholas Braun), citing that she wants to see what’s out there both sexually and exploratory. She moves in with her sister, a nurse named Meg (Leslie Mann) – who is reluctant to fall in love with the younger Ken (Jake Lacy) -- and meets the fiendishly fun Robin (Rebel Wilson) who takes her out on the town every night so she can experience what hooking up is like. All of the characters in the movie hang out at a bar run by Tom (Anders Holm) who befriends Lucy (Alison Brie) as she uses the bar for its wifi in order to cheat dating sites and pick the perfect man. If that’s at all confusing at any point, then you had as much trouble as the movie itself had with juggling the character and story load.

The issue is that each character is given one defined trait and that’s it. Alice wants love, Robin wants to party, Meg wants a baby, and so on. When Alice decides she’s done living, her ex has already moved on. Then there’s a tired back and forth between the two and their emotions. Alice was strong enough to move out on her own but, once she finds it too rough to be alone, she comes crawling back expecting her relationship to just resume. Her sister Meg is just as wishy washy. She’s a busy nurse who doesn’t have enough time for a boyfriend. How did she expect to take care of a baby? Questions like these linger in the air as the characters just expect to “figure things out” by the movie’s end. This would all be for naught unless there was a plot device that just fixed everything for the characters. Lo and behold, there is. With every problem Alice and her friends have, the script has a solution. Robin plays the de facto characterized version of the Ex Machina, as seen in the finale act at Alice’s birthday party, while the story itself plants seeds of redemption along the way.  Love, in this movie at least, is black and white much like the band story elements.

Characters are further weakened by their sporadic use. The lesser characters are only brought in when their needed, leaving large parts of the story untold. Tom, in particular, just disappears as Alice and Meg’s separate stories are told even though he is considered the male lead. And Alison Brie might as well have had her plot frontloaded in the beginning just to get it out of the way.

Truth be told, for all the negatives, this movie sure does look pretty. Like Johnson’s Alice, the aesthetic is charming. Texts are layered over the video as they appear on cellphones, the bright lights of New York are used well in conjunction to the party-like atmosphere, and everyone is well off so there’s no slumming it. Alice herself is almost care free. She has a job, she’s cute and her smile could turn a cold man into a bewildered goof. But charm can only get the movie so far and, while they’re not entirely developed, the characters do have their moments of redemption – no matter how small.

Should you watch How to Be Single?

This is a tough one partly because this is not a good movie. Plots are dropped and picked up and much of the same can be said about 80% of the characters. There’s really nothing of substance at all. This movie is essentially popcorn wherein it’s not entirely good for you but it’s not terribly bad for you either. Watch it if you want a feel good movie but don’t expect to learn much if anything from its tired plot and uninspired everything else.

 

Notes

  • Okay. I’m going to say it. No matter what kind of movie this is, Jake Lacy’s Ken pulled some real stalker moves. He showed up at Meg’s apartment unannounced (and before she got home) after she tried to end things. He shows up at her work, again, unannounced. I don’t care if this is a romantic comedy; there is no excuse.
  • Damon Wayans Jr. and Alison Brie are paperweights here. Two fine actors are given nothing to do and carry whatever scene they’re in. The same can be said about Jason Mantzoukas who is not given more than a few lines and a handful of them are funny. And Colin Jost may have as well been some random actor.
  • I’m a real sucker for romcoms so I let a lot of crap slide.
  • Dakota Johnson is really great. I mean it. I can’t put my finger on it but she’s got this innocence about her. This is after she starred in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie. Irony. We’d be best friends though.
  • I’m sure he’s a nice guy and all but Nicholas Braun is a human manikin.