How To Be Single (2016) fails to tap into singlehood potential
|Photo Credit: How To Be Single / Warner Bros Pictures|
February is a go-to month for Hollywood to release movies about love and relationships. Taking a break from the Nicholas Sparks' norm, and truly awesome Pride and Prejudice and Zombies adaptation, was a more modern comedy How To Be Single starring Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, and Leslie Mann.
Putting her long-term relationship on pause to ensure no part of her own identity is left untapped Alice (Dakota Johnson) explores the freedom of being single. Helping her navigate a new world of flirtation and one-night-stands is a workaholic sister Meg (Leslie Mann) recognizing her desire for motherhood, and Robin (Rebel Wilson), a non-stop partying and unfiltered coworker.
How To Be Single is more funny than romantic, and the credit goes to its leading ladies.
Johnson had a tremendous breakthrough last year 50 Shades of Grey, and she's steadily establishing herself as a versatile and natural talent. So many women have been in Alice's shoes - single and going through all the wrong relationships to figure out what she really wants? She really gives a nice protagonist to relate to and root for. On top of that, Johnson is endearing and has a natural quiet nature, which organically bounces off of Wilsons' wild ways.
Speaking of which, the surrounding cast lends a nice camaraderie. Wilson, whose built up an impressive persona as a genuinely funny and blunt best friend, gives the most eccentric performance. It's always funny to see her take physical comedy to new heights without it being over-the-top or see her on-screen personality become too annoying. Also, Mann has become a veteran of this genre, making well-rounded characters in the midst of modern-day mayhem of man-boy husbands/boyfriends. Here it's nice to see her as a single lady wanting a different future for herself with kids that may or may not be without a man. The women in the film are first independent, and second seeking a substantial relationship. Though I'd say Wilson provides most of the laugh-out-loud, everyone lends to the film's upbeat nature.
"If Tom texts you wait four hours to respond.As much as I liked How To Be Single for the cast and overall message, it's hard for me to wholeheartedly recommend. My only qualm is that at face-value the title doesn't fit the story. Alice's relationship going in all the wrong directions takes a bit too much of the running time.
And if you use an emoji I will tit-punch you."
In fact, Meg at one point shades entertainment like Sex and the City because they focus too much on self-proclaimed single independent women spending all their time hunting down men and depending on their love for validation. Though Alice is given a bit more of a try-and-try-again way of finding what's right for her, How To Be Single does too much of the same SATC thing. Her attempt to understand singlehood by being in relationships almost usurps her actual singlehood.
What I liked the most is that it's not a romantic comedy pushing an agenda - like the regular guy who can't get a girl yearning to just sleep with the girl-next-door but not really appreciate her, or women "daring" to try to balance it all, etc. Instead, How To Be Single feels quite judgement-free, which is perhaps the film's greatest strength next to the cast. Alice, Robin, and Meg provide different layers of what women in want and aren't shoved into boxes that don't work for them.
The women and men aren't harshly judged for their approach in relationships. You can be single and party the hell out of life. You can be single for most of your life and realize that’s not something you want anymore. You can commit to someone/not enjoy one-night-stands but not lose sight of yourself as an individual. The film doesn't cap a limit on what it means to be single i.e. if you are a lone person, you are not automatically sad, anti-social, or an old maid waiting to be discovered half-eaten by ravaged dogs a la Bridget Jones' worst fears. There's no right or wrong way to be single or in relationships. That in itself is refreshing, even if some of the movie's qualities have been done before.