UK Release Date: 19th February 2016
Runtime: 110 minutes
Director: Christian Ditter
Writer: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, Dana Fox
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann, Alison Brie, Anders Holm, Nicholas Braun, Jake Lacy, Jason Mantzoukas
Synopsis: A newly single young woman in New York takes on a new job and is introduced to the vibrant single landscape of the city, whilst on the hunt for a new life experience.
For a very long time, the romantic comedy genre has treated singledom as being akin to a degenerative illness. Adult human beings without partners are painted as tragically awkward loners, ice-cold robots or eternal romantics let down by their rose-tinted view of society. It is refreshing, in that sense, to come across a film like How To Be Single that treats being single as an opportunity to experience the world – the good, the bad and the ugly parts of it.
Alice (Dakota Johnson) temporarily separates from her long-term boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) to experience a new life in New York with her older sister Meg (Leslie Mann). At her law firm, she befriends Robin (Rebel Wilson), who vows to teach her how to live the single life in the city. They meet handsome barman Tom (Anders Holm), who runs the establishment frequented by Lucy (Alison Brie), who conducts daily searches for the one using dating site algorithms.
How To Be Single is a witty take on the romcom. The script is a machine gun of quotable dialogue, largely from Rebel Wilson, who is the comedic heart of the story. Wilson’s improvisational skills are deployed to great effect throughout, with the sense that there was an embarrassment of riches for the filmmakers in terms of her material. It’s something of a shame, therefore, that there’s a lack of emotional depth to proceedings.
You should close your legs. There’s a reason I stopped watching Duck Dynasty.
In focusing on firing as much comedy at the audience as possible, How To Be Single occasionally loses sight of the characters at its centre. Rebel Wilson’s character never really gets the emotional pay-off that seems on the way and Dakota Johnson, although presenting a decent everywoman anchor for the narrative, becomes a generic wide-eyed New Yorker more than once during the course of the film. The coda is twee in the worst way, undoing a lot of the impressive realism of the rest of the movie.
The only character who seems to go through a true journey is Leslie Mann’s obstetrician-gynecologist, who struggles to commit to serious relationships and fears the prospect of motherhood. Her outlook begins to change when she meets younger man Ken (Jake Lacy) and embarks on a relationship with him. Mann and Lacy have great comedic chemistry and are convincing in their roles, providing a grounding that the story needs.
The film was sold as something of an Avengers of New York singledom, particularly on the poster. With that in mind, the inclusion of Alison Brie as a dating site-obsessed bar-dweller who never interacts with the three other central women. Throughout the entire film, it seems likely that her storyline will coalesce with the others, but it never does and she feels like something of an afterthought as a result. Her entire plotline could easily have been cut from the film entirely.
If you use an emoji, I will tit punch you.
Such a cut would have, in fact, solved the main problem with the film – its length. Like just about every American comedy of the last decade, How To Be Single is at least 20 minutes too long, suffering from a serious lack of discipline in the edit. There are narrative corners the film doesn’t need to travel around and times it could have taken the occasional shortcut, but when it works, it’s an enjoyable comedy that takes an interesting slant on a well-worn subgenre.
Pop or Poop?
Strong performances from a talented ensemble of comic actors are enough to elevate subpar material in How To Be Single, which reshapes singledom as a life choice in itself rather than a manifestation of social failings. Leslie Mann, in particular, offers an interesting perspective, whilst Rebel Wilson keeps the laugh rate high.
It’s way too long and often struggles to get above stereotypical character portrayals, but the laughs keep coming and there are some pleasingly sweet moments for the central characters.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.