How to Be Single (2016)
How to Be Single (2016)

Genre: Romantic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min.

Release Date: February 12th, 2016 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Christian Ditter Actors: Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann, Anders Holm, Damon Wayans Jr., Nicholas Braun, Jake Lacy, Jason Mantzoukas, Colin Jost, Sarah Ramos

 


 

B

efore the film really gets going, it’s apparent that “How to Be Single” has modeled itself almost entirely from “Sex and the City.” The New York setting, the music, the characters, the momentary male nudity, and the dreaded voiceover designate this feature project as a smaller, episodic production along the lines of the aforementioned television series. And, indeed, with the cast of four primary women and their array of farcical sexual situations, this simple comedy looks and feels unmistakably like imitation adventures for derivations of Carrie Bradshaw and crew. And that’s not a good thing.

“This story isn’t about relationships,” insists Alice Kepley (Dakota Johnson), even though the picture proceeds to be entirely about the pursuit of significant others. She goes on to suggest that women’s lives should not be defined by relationships, and that what happens in between such unions is real life. Women are supposed to be cheerful about being single, or at least hide any display of embarrassment about solitariness, but all they truly yearn for is meaningful connections. Throughout the course of the film, her character, along with her costars, can do nothing but show open dismay or discomposure over breakups and separations.

When Alice decides to broaden her experiences with the opposite sex, she leaves longtime boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) for a paralegal position with Brown, Light, and Finkelstein in the Big Apple – where she immediately meets nonstop party girl Robin (Rebel Wilson). Taking the unpracticed youth under her wing, Robin shows Alice how to have a good time – and having a good time is defined by heavy imbibing, spontaneous sex, and memory loss. An early montage demonstrates that the essential routine for serious partygoers involves drinking at a bar, drunken intercourse, waking up next to a stranger, nursing a hangover, and stumbling into work to prepare to do it all over again. The problem with this setup is that, despite its modernized representation as adolescent convention, the characters appear despicable for succumbing to such progressive yet fleeting existences. Love looks so much better in cinema when it’s not marred by empty, casual sex.

Additionally, in this hopelessly fictional world, women are unable to possess both a good career and a good man. Though the story was molded by numerous writers (based on the book by Liz Tuccillo), it betrays an incredibly sexist attitude with this message. Furthermore, it proposes that young people are inherently prone to partying and promiscuity, while older people must be responsible and boring; this is the standard categorization of maturity and anyone who falls outside of this compass is abnormal. “Reading is for ugly losers!” instructs Robin, as Alice is forced to choose between loneliness or sleeping with convenient acquaintances. Meanwhile, dating-website mathematician Lucy (Alison Brie) is convinced that the odds are against her for finding a worthwhile companion, and Alice’s sister Meg (Leslie Mann) decides she wants a child, but can’t depend on a relationship with a man to have one – resorting to a sperm donor whom she never has to meet.

Rebel Wilson plays Rebel Wilson, spewing penis jokes and booze quips every time the mood becomes too dour from all of the collapsing relationships. And the rest of the cast adopts generic personas of romanticists perpetually disappointed by the cold reality of loveless hookups and shifting desires. It’s a group of characters that commands little sympathy and less purpose, exhibited as juveniles merely waiting to develop away from the childish fantasies of love and happiness. What a depressing assemblage of contemptible yet physically attractive spirits.

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10