How To Be Single Movie Review
Overly cliched and poorly written, How To Be Single is yet another stale entry in the ensemble comedy genre as a movie that lacks a clear message or identity. Solid performances from Dakota Johnson and Leslie Mann are unable to save How To Be Single from being yet another missed opportunity on an utterly forgettable film.
Finding love can be difficult, but finding yourself can be even more trying. At least that seems to be the prevailing theme of How To Be Single, although much is lost in translation from the apparent message to the actual finished product on screen. How To Be Single operates across many genres: rom-com, raunchy comedy, coming of age, female lead drama, and just a general drama film. Playing as an ensemble piece, How To Be Single follows the lives of a collection of women, and men, trying to find what they want out of life as their paths intersect, and bisect, from one another.
The story follows Alice (Dakota Johnson) as she makes plans to move to New York City to become a paralegal and also find what she wants out of life. This also comes with the her breaking up with her longtime college boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) with the caveat that they would resume their relationship if and when Alice so desired. Along the way, Alice meets and befriends Robin (Rebel Wilson), a wild woman living single life to the fullest, who coerces Alice to be more adventurous and spontaneous with her life. Along the way they interact with and around Lucy (Alison Brie), a lonely young woman who relies on online dating as her primary device for finding love, and Meg (Leslie Mann), Alice’s sister who is going through a midlife crisis about a relationship and potential desire to have a child. Along the way we are introduced to the remaining men in the film who the women interact from time to time with starting with Tom (Anders Holm), Ken (Jake Lacy), David (Damon Wayans Jr.), and George (Jason Mantzoukas).
Unfortunately, like ensemble movies such as 2010s Valentines Day and 2011s New Year’s Eve, How To Be Single emphasizes multiple different story threads, but only fully focuses on one while attempting to retain the importance of the ones that surround it. Committing so much time to so many characters who become marginalized by the end of the film, instead of having proper resolution, leaves films like these ringing emotionally flat and, frankly, feeling like a waste of time and effort. Instead of exploring emotional or character depth, we are merely given single, or at most two, dimensional characters to follow without the desire to have invested anything in their respective journeys. Hollow stereotypes are abound and people make questionable, if not entirely self destructive, decisions simply for the sake of doing them, with little to no thought on their behalf.
The lone silver lining is that the film is as well performed as could be expected. Dakota Johnson operates as the anchor of the film whose character has the most interaction with everyone involved, but her character is never likable or interesting enough to carry the weight of the burden. Johnson is solid in the role, and the fault is not her own, but her character is too difficult to root for or against, and lacks the compelling qualities of a lead. Leslie Mann, to her credit, provides some of her best non-comedic acting in quite some time, and her midlife crisis is one of the more interesting aspects of the film, but her character is not explored in enough depth to understand where she is coming from and who she really is. Rebel Wilson unfortunately continues to resonate as a one note actress in a role that continues to provide her with moments to be rude, crude, and vulgar, and while that may be your cup of tea, it feels all too familiar.
Amidst the marginally interesting characters and the above average performances that attempt to elevate How To Be Single from mediocrity, what drives the final nail home is the moral ambiguity the film wades in throughout the runtime. Social opinions on “how to live your life” aside, How To Be Single follows self-destructive characters who, not unlike many of us, continuously search for a happiness that exists right in front of them that they are simply unwilling to see or grasp. However, instead of making the right decisions, they repeatedly make the wrong ones, against all logic and reason, leaving them worse off than before and us with no character to relate to, follow, or root for. They are not all bad people, but they make bad decisions that result in bad things happening to some otherwise decent people. It does not make them “bad,” but it doesn’t necessarily make them “good” or likable either. If you can’t connect with a characters, their goals, or the message of the film, what do you have left? Multiply one character by eight, with one minor exception, and the end result is a disappointingly hollow film with no style or substance.
Ironically, How To Be Single is in fact that: a guide on self-imploding one’s relationships and how you will remain single if you make those decisions. The film tries to play itself off as a guide to enjoying life and finding yourself, but it wallows in its misguided attempts at sending a larger, positive message while delivering conflicting messages along the way.
How To Be Single is directed by Christian Ditter and stars Dakota Johnson, Leslie Mann, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Jake Lacy, Anders Holm, and Nicholas Braun. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Liz Tuccillo.