It’s actually quite simple: Just do it.
After four years of college, Alice (Dakota Johnson) decides she needs a break from her long-term boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun). Though she’s not too sure if she wants to do this, she still knows that she wants to live a life of her own, for now, and see, at a later date, if being single is what she really wants. Still, she’s very excited about this new freedom she’s found in her life and starts up a friendship with her co-worker Robin (Rebel Wilson), the kind of gal who loves a good time, to party a whole lot, sleep around, and just generally be as reckless as can be. Now, through Robin, Alice an meet new guys and have a whole bunch of new experiences, that may or may not include sexual relations with other men. Meanwhile, Lucy (Alison Brie) is looking for that special someone in her life, even if it seems all too clear that the bartender she constantly sees (Anders Holm), may be the perfect man for her. Also, Meg (Leslie Mann) finally decides, after many years, that she wants to have a baby and goes through with the procedure. However, at the same time, she meets and starts to fall for Alice’s co-worker (Jake Lacy) and doesn’t know if she wants to settle down and tell him about the situation, or just pull away altogether.
There’s a lot about How to Be Single that doesn’t work and there’s a lot about it that does. What the movie wants to do is not get on these women’s cases for having sex, going from man-to-man, doing their own thing, and not really needing a man to tie her down. Still though, the movie doesn’t try to say that any women who may want a man, or to get married are “bad” or “stupid” – after all, it’s just a fact of life that some people live and others don’t.
At the same time, though, How to Be Single also wants to talk out on these female character’s ways for having so much sex with so many random people that it gets mixed up in judging them. This is something I didn’t expect to see, but was still surprised by, because the movie does have some interesting anecdotes to bring up about women’s lives that you don’t too often see in mainstream rom-coms of this nature. Normally, the characters will be judged and held on some mantle as if the audience is supposed to learn from their mistakes, but here, in How to Be Single that thankfully doesn’t happen.
But there’s a odd unevenness about this whole movie that never fully gels well together.
For one, there’s at least one or two stories going on here that probably don’t need to exist at all, but are still around, if only because they feature talented, somewhat famous actors in the scenes, so rather than tossing them out and wasting them, they’re used and put in the film anyway. Alison Brie is charming and likable in just about everything she does, but here, if you were to take her character away, the movie would not change one bit. There’s a core group in the film that holds down the center, which Brie’s character hardly even brushes by and is instead, left to sit at the bar and only have interactions with Anders Holm’s character. Granted, there’s no problem with this because it’s always nice to see him in something, but still, it can occasionally feel like unnecessary filler.
Same goes for Leslie Mann’s character who, even despite being related to Dakota Johnson’s, still feels like she’s got a whole story of her own, going on elsewhere and not really connecting to the main-frame of the story. But then again, like is the case with Brie and Holm, Mann and Jake Lacy are both lovely presences, so the more scenes with them, the better honestly. That’s why it’s hard to get on this movie’s case for having so much talent around and deciding to use them all, as superfluous as their screen-time and involvement can sometimes be.
And this is all to say that they help How to Be Single be better than you’d expect.
Rather than making this cloying, in-your-face rom-com about how great it feels to be in love with someone, it’s actually more about these certain character’s lives, their ventures into romance, and just where they head to when they make a decision. The movie is nowhere near as insightful as it likes to think it is, but it’s at least trying and with the cast it has involved, that’s fine enough. Nobody here has to light the world on fire, but instead, just be ready to deliver the material as best as they can.
In fact, if there’s any weak spots in the film, it’s specifically through the main protagonists of the movie: Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson. Both are supposed to be our main center-points of the movie, and while Wilson is mostly around for strictly comedy, it gets a bit tiring to see her do the same thing, over and over again, without hardly a laugh or shed of humanity to be found. Johnson’s character is slightly more interesting, but the movie constantly betrays her with the random, sometimes idiotic decisions she make, that it can get pretty frustrating. Johnson is good and clearly seems to be enjoying her time with the camera in front of her face, but really, you’ll just wish she had better material to shed out more. We know that it’s within her, we’re just waiting to see when that time will eventually come around.
Hopefully not in Fifty Shades Darker.
Consensus: Given the cast involved, How to Be Single works as an entertaining, occasionally dramatic rom-com that doesn’t know what it wants to say, but like the people it’s working with enough to just let them do their things and be charming.
5 / 10