Sunday 5 August 2018

Movie Review: How To Be Single (2016)

A celebration of the ups and downs of singlehood from the female perspective, How To Be A Single does not stray far from romantic comedy conventions.

In New York City, paralegal Alice (Dakota Johnson) forces a temporary break from her boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) in order to find herself. She befriends Robin (Rebel Wilson), who revels in the party lifestyle of being single. Alice's older sister Meg (Leslie Mann) is also single and dedicated to her career as a doctor. New-in-town Lucy (Alison Brie) dates obsessively in search of a husband, and meets her dates at the bar run by the dishy Tom (Anders Holm), an expert at one-night stands.

Alice quickly regrets leaving Josh, but he no longer wants her back. She eventually starts a relationship with businessman and single dad David (Damon Wayans, Jr.). Meg decides to have a baby on her own using donated sperm, but soon meets Ken (Jake Lacy) and they start to fall in love. Lucy repeatedly strikes out in her efforts to find a soulmate, and is oblivious to Tom's growing interest. Robin stays true to herself, living up a life of fun and hard partying.

An adaptation of the novel by Liz Tuccillo directed by Christian Ditter, How To Be Single only superficially tries to be different. The title and theme suggest an intent to not make the pursuit of a partner a central premise, but beneath the thin veneer, the film is a standard a rom-com: three of the four women spend the entirety of the film obsessing about men.

The exception is party animal Robin, who really is a girl who only wants to have fun, and never melts in front of the prospect of finding a soulmate. Alice, notionally the main character, quickly gets busy plotting how to enter or re-enter the lives of various men, despite opening the film by abandoning a man who adores her. She has a late-in-the-day awakening, but not before surrendering to all the cliches about women desperate to attract and please men.

At least Lucy is painfully honest about wanting get rid of her single condition as quickly as possible. Meg is the career woman who falls victim to the sudden urge to have a baby on her own, at which point a man enters her life. Her story almost belongs in a previous generation and has been told before in films like The Back-Up Plan.

How To Be Single delivers a steady stream of decent laugh, Ditter adds a few flashy directorial touches, the four actresses are likeable enough and share the screen time, ensuring limited dawdling. But ultimately, and to no one's real surprise, being single is a foundational part of yet another shallow story about the pursuit of cute couplehood.

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