Sure to be a “single” watch, if you choose to see it at all.
Movie Review #1,055
Distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Comedy, Romance. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes. Rated R for sexual content and strong language throughout. Released February 12, 2016. Directed by Christian Ditter. Screenplay by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox. Screen story by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein. From the book by Liz Tuccillo. Starring Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson, Leslie Mann, Damon Wayans Jr., Anders Holm, Nicholas Braun, Jake Lacy, Jason Mantzoukas, and Colin Jost.
“How to Be Single” is a catchy title, and a seemingly direct one. We know right off the bat that it could act in same way as a guide to living life to its fullest without a significant other. A better title would be “How Not to Be Single”, or maybe “How to Be Single Even though It May Not Seem Like It”. Because, in all fairness, the movie depicts its four female leads hooking up with the same set of guys over and over, to the extent that it pretty much seems like they’re each in a relationship.
Or perhaps an even better title would be “How to Be Incoherent”. Or, if we consider just how glaring the incoherence is, “The Idiots’ Guide to Incoherence”. First we have Alice (Dakota Johnson), who has just broken up with her boyfriend. Actually, they’re on a break, in the familiar sense that Ross and Rachel were in Friends. Alice finds a friend in Robin (Rebel Wilson), who would have already earned her Master’s in being single by the time such a degree. The story is fine up to here. Then the film starts on a trip down ADHD Lane, growing overly distracted with characters and stories that we just don’t care much about. Alice lives with her sister Meg (Leslie Mann), an OB/GYN. It seems that whenever the screenwriter hits a wall with Alice’s story, he shifts ever so awkwardly to Meg’s story. A full third of the movie becomes an unnecessarily bloated shtick about Meg’s desire to have kids, her impulsive decision to do in vitro fertilization, and her acquiring of an idiot boyfriend. As a brief reminder, remember that she’s supposed to be single.
But back to Alice. She has a thing with the bartender, whose name probably doesn’t matter, because his one-dimensional characterization makes it easy to confuse him with any other bartender in any other movie. And remember, Alice is supposed to be single, per the movie’s title. We just have to keep telling ourselves that, despite what it looks like, the “thing” going on between Alice and the bartender is a bunch of one-night stands and isn’t at all romantic.
But I digress. While he’s in this quasi-relationship with Alice, the bartender is lusting after a girl in his bar named Lucy (Alison Brie). She’s the only character in the film who appears to have a brain, so we can conclude that this bartender is probably a good guy because he doesn’t pick his women based entirely on their looks. How do I know Lucy has a brain? She is designing an app that allows the user to find his or her soulmate quickly and easily. How do I remember this? It was a small plot device that somehow expanded to the size of one-third of the story. “Appendix” seems an accurate description of how significant her app should have been to the movie, so I suppose this is just an unfortunate case of appendicitis.
“How to Be Single” isn’t perfect by any means, nor is it overall a good movie. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it bad, though. Even to say it was in enjoyable is to discredit some genuine moments in the movie. At its best, “How to Be Single” is either sugar-sweet or pleasantly funny. The entire side story about Meg’s desire to have a baby, while almost completely unnecessary, is absolutely adorable. Furthermore, watching Dakota Johnson and her eventual boyfriend’s daughter bond over the song “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” is quite touching. Rebel Wilson of course is the film’s greatest investment as far as humor is concerned. The fat, obnoxious Australian persona is a stock character that she has by now overused. I have yet to see her break that character, and although I would really like to, I don’t exactly mind it when that stock character struggles to climb out the window of a taxicab, or spontaneously creates the word “dicksand.” The downside is that the story jerks around for so long that it feels like hours have passed by the time we hear this verbal concoction.