How To Be Single
Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann
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It’s not exactly subversive, but How To Be Single is still an admirable step forward for the genre.
On first glance, How To Be Single appears to be chasing the same formula of raunch and romance that worked so well for last year’s Trainwreck and 2011’s breakout hit Bridesmaids. It doesn’t hit the same league as either of those films, but in many ways, it’s actually a more progressive film. While raw and funny, both Trainwreck and Bridesmaids remained relatively faithful to the romantic comedy formula, whereas How To Be Single provides us with heroines who discover – or already know – that they can be genuinely happy even when their relationship status is single. It’s not exactly subversive, but How To Be Single is still an admirable step forward for the genre.
While the comedy encompasses perhaps one too many characters, it centres on Dakota Johnson’s Alice who breaks up with her college sweetheart Josh (Nicholas Braun) so she can spend some time alone to “figure out who she is”. She moves to New York (where else?!) and moves in with her older sister, Meg (Leslie Mann), a single obstetrician who is determined that she doesn’t need a child to feel complete – until she does. Alice gains work at a legal firm, which is where she meets the unruly Robin (Rebel Wilson), who is intent on showing Alice how to truly rock life as a singleton, which means never going home and never paying for drinks. This brings the duo into a bar owned by serial dater Tom (Anders Holm), who has a fling with Alice. Meanwhile, Tom realises he actually has feelings for Lucy (Alison Brie), an uptight young woman who spends all her time using the bar’s free WiFi to scour online dating sites for the perfect partner.
Somewhat surprisingly, Christian Ditter – who directed the very predictable Love, Rosie – is behind the camera here. The humour ranges from laugh out loud funny to casual throwaway lines, but it’s best in its smaller, slyer moments when it’s not trying too hard. The best bits of the film are in the female interactions and relationships, with Meg and Alice’s bond as sisters proving a warm anchor for the film. Rebel Wilson pulls a routine similar to Fat Amy in Pitch Perfect and while admittedly funny (depending on your tolerance for Wilson), one hopes the actress will start gaining parts with a little more vulnerability and dimension, rather than playing the deadpan talent. Alison Brie’s storyline feels a little separate from the narrative, but she almost steals the whole film in one scene when she erupts and let loose about the ridiculous expectations placed on women – a cathartic moment for many a female audience member. While a couple of the central characters do find love, it’s a credit to the film for showing that happy endings don’t need to be synonymous with grand gestures and romantic relationships.