The Valentine’s Day weekend rom-com release date is something of a Hollywood institution at this point. After all, the target audience is, in theory, built in: all those girls out there who are spending the “holiday” with friends, drinking bubbly drinks, clutching a box of cupcakes in one hand and a box of tissues in another.
If this statement/description offends you, you’re right. After all, it is 2016, and we, as a society, HAVE moved on from cosmopolitans, the Sex and The City Bus Tours, and Bridget Jones as the ultimate singleton heroine. Right? RIGHT? We have had Obvious Child, Celeste & Jesse Forever, Bridesmaids, Safety Not Guaranteed, In A World, Frances Ha, and Trainwreck and…. (the list goes on). We should know better.
Well, I am sad to inform you that How To Be Single sets out to ruin all the good work all those movies have done and bring the romantic comedy back to its dark ages (i.e. that trying time of He’s Just Not That Into You and Something Borrowed?). And, as a further afront to quality rom com lovers out there, it goes and casts almost everyone we’d WANT TO see in this type of movie: Alison Brie, Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson, Leslie Mann, Anders Holm, Jason Matsoukas, Damon Wayans Jr, Jake Lacey and … (the list goes on). The result is sort of a What To Expect When You’re Expecting for the singles set: a loosely connected group of women (and men around them) navigate dating, breaking-up, settling down, and more in New York City.
Dakota Johnson’s Alice is a fresh-out-of-college, never-before-been-single city newcomer staying with Leslie Mann, her workaholic, biological clock ticking sister. Rebel Wilson is her coworker, a child fast friend, and Alison Brie is living above a bar that a guy everyone seems to be sleeping with owns.
From what I understand, the movie was based on a book and the interchanging narratives maybe work better in written form, but on the screen the timeline/storyline jumble becomes a little hard to follow. Random holidays (we get a Christmas and a St. Patrick’s day but no Thanksgiving and no Valentine’s Day) are thrown in for timeframe reference, as is a sort-of-constantly growing pregnant belly of one of the leads. But everything in the mix could easily have just as easily happened over the course of a week, a month or a summer, and a more manageable, less jump-around approach would have benefited the “storytelling”.
Instead, the interweaving tales serve as not much else than basic vehicles for jokes, of which each character has essentially one that they are recycling over and over (AND OVER) throughout the movie to a point of caricature. This is a strategy that, even in the hands of these more-than-capable women, feels trite. To wit:
- Johnson is the classic codependent and naive
- Wilson is a black-out party girl
- Brie is an uptight, type-A husband hunter
- Mann is a neurotic workaholic
and that’s just the women, who, in this case, are actually the better fleshed out of the bunch. The men are there simply as:
- The ring
- The penis
- The sperm
- The provider
- The handyman
As if all that that is not bad enough, the overabundant exposition is through the roof. Everything from a copy of “Wild” to … a copy of “The Bell Jar” is strategically placed throughout the film as symbols of female empowerment and soul searching (since, you know, this is all about learning HOW to be single, and there is a right way AND the wrong way, as the overhead narration informs us).
In the end, for a movie that is in theory about self-worth, it misses the point on the most basic level: everyone in it deserves better than what this turned out to be, and so do you.