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How To Be Single (A Movie Review)

Updated: Mar 31, 2020

How To Be Single

How To Be Single


Starring Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann, Damon Wayans Jr., Nicholas Braun, Anders Holm, Jake Lacy, Jason Mantzoukas, Colin Jost, Mickey Gooch Jr., Sarah Ramos, Vanessa Rubio, Zani Jones Mbayise, Brent Morin, Kay Cannon, Judith Lightfoot Clarke, Patrick Boll, Anna Eilinsfeld, Charlotte Kirk, Angela Bellotte and Kevin Yamada.

Screenplay by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox.

Directed by Christian Ditter.

Distributed by Warner Brothers.  110 minutes.  Rated R.

From the coming attractions trailers, you may not expect too much going in to How to Be Single, simply a raunchy sitcom about the single life of four New York ladies.

The low expectations somehow work to an advantage for How to Be Single, because it turns out to be much better than you ever imagined.  Not to say it is a great film, but it is an immensely likable one that is much savvier about the modern single life than the trailer lets on.

Yes, it does have the silly, sleazy, sexy thrills promised, but more to the point, How to Be Single is a look at modern friendship and bonding through a prism of a romantic comedy.  It is deeper than it lets on.  It doesn’t trade in rom-com clichés – half the ladies here don’t find Mr. Right, they end up on their own and happier for it.  Rebel Wilson’s character outright rejects monogamy and the story doesn’t punish her for her impudence, in fact she is probably enjoying herself more than anyone.

How to Be Single is a romantic comedy mashed up with an anti-rom-com and it wears its contradictions well.  Even more importantly, it is the story of friendship, of four women finding their places in the world.

For years, people have complained that there were not enough comedies about women’s friendships.  There was a mini-surge after Bridesmaids became a huge hit a few years ago, but other than the Pitch Perfect movies, most of them were simply bad movies, often trying too hard to shock, things like Bachelorette Party and Hot Pursuit.

How to Be Single, while far from a perfect film, is a good return to form.  (Is it a coincidence that all of the good ones seem to co-star Rebel Wilson?)

It tells the story of four women looking for love, or sex, or whatever, in modern Manhattan.  (Though technically, only three of them are close, one of the four lead characters circles around like a satellite of the other three, but never really interacts with them.  In fact, when one of the three friends mentions her in passing to a bartender character, the audience is surprised to know she actually knows who the other woman is.)

Alice (Dakota Johnson) is a small-town girl moved to the big city.  She decided to take a temporary break with her long-time boyfriend so that she can discover who she really is in life, only to find out that he thought the break was more permanent than she did and has moved on.

Through her new job, she meets Robin (Rebel Wilson), an unapologetic party girl who is determined to introduce her to all of the wild thrills that New York has to offer.

Alice’s older sister Meg (Leslie Mann) is a successful obstetrician who has been so busy with her career of delivering babies that she has always convinced herself she didn’t want one herself.  Then, suddenly, the biological clock starts ticking loudly and the single doc decides that she wants to become pregnant through artificial insemination.  And of course, when her plan finally works, she meets the perfect younger man (Jake Lacy).

The last woman is Lucy (Alison Brie), who lives upstairs from the bar that all the other women go to and hangs out at the bar to steal its wifi.  She believes she has come up with the perfect formula to meet a man online, but eventually learns that there is no science to matters of the heart.  She befriends the bartender (Anders Holm), a commitment-phobe who starts taking an interest in her, and who is her slight connection to the rest of the film.

It’s all light and funny and yet surprisingly smart and heartfelt.  How to Be Single is one of the most pleasant surprises to hit the multiplexes in a while.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2016 All rights reserved. Posted: February 12, 2016.

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