How to Be Single (2016)

Directed by Christian Ditter
Written by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox

The world of dating is a mad, mad, mad world out there in today’s day and age. The world has become so small, and with social media there is no place to hide, no secrets to hold when it comes to finding a mate. I must admit, before getting too far along in this review, to being extremely lucky in my personal life, and have faced VERY limited experience in the world as a single person (the wedding is in October, and no, you’re not invited, sorry). But knowing I have been lucky, I can only imagine what single people are going through. Even with the advent of online dating sites to ease the tension of meeting people in casual bars, or having to even spare an evening of your overly busy life in order to do so, the possibility of rejection is still high, and rejection will never be easy to swallow, no matter how much technology gets involved.

So thank goodness for this movie, How to Be Single, for it is here to teach us how to be strong, independent single people in today’s day and age! Alice (Dakota Johnson), was like me. She met her boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) on the first day of college and they’d been together ever since. But as they start their life after college, Alice decides she wants to sow her wild oats and be single to help find out who she is as an individual not in a relationship. She moves to the city, gets a job where her crazy co-worker Robin (Rebel Wilson) shows her one way of being single, while her successful doctor sister (Leslie Mann) tries to show her a different way. Often meeting at Tom’s Bar, owned of course by Tom (Anders Holm), they tread the waters of New York single life, even when fellow bar patron Lucy (Alison Brie) has developed an algorithm to help find her soulmate.

The whole lot of it is bonkers, to be totally honest with you. I am not sure there is one genuine emotion, feeling, or decision made in the entirety of this film, and the title, well, the title is completely misleading. Alice, the one who is supposedly the single one, trying to learn “how to be single” and independent, spends the entire time either longing to return to Josh, who by the way met someone else while she was trying to be single even though he was madly in love with her and never wanted her to leave in the first place, because of course he did, or she is chasing tail at the local watering hole with her sex-crazed, always drunk friend Robin. So by this film’s hypothesis, the resolution to being single is trying as hard as you possibly can not to be.

But, of course, the film would be incomplete without the prerequisite turning point, when Alice finally finds a moment to herself in order to read books like Wild on her New York fire escape at magic hour and realize what being an independent woman is all about, and that she totally has this, no problem, she’s had it in her all along. For a film that seems to be trying to be about the strength of independent women, there is not a single female character in this film that doesn’t, at some point, literally say they need a man. The film is also morally bankrupt without batting an eye. I was fully expecting the sex-centric raunchy humor, which is luckily very funny for the most part in large part due to the continued success of Rebel Wilson being Rebel Wilson, but when the film stoops to the point of obligatory sex between friends who, moments before having  professed their love to other people, reach the required number of total alcoholic drinks in order for them to sleep with each other without being able to avoid it, only to immediately admit to their mistake because apparently they were sober enough afterwards to realize it, but certainly not before.

Meg, Alice’s sister, and Lucy are the interesting characters in this story, so it would only seem appropriate that they are given the smallest parts in the film. Meg is probably the only independent woman in the bunch, but of course she is ruined by her persistence of being independent to the point that she shuns away a great guy for no reason. Lucy, on the other hand, barely ties into the rest of the crowd, but her character has the most potential given the landscape of the dating world and what the title of the film suggests its going for. Her dating algorithm, and peanut explanation for the difficult scenario of finding her soulmate in a city of eight million people, seem a perfect jumping off point for the exploration of being single. But she is relegated to being a tertiary character. The only thing that attempts to balance out the bad in the film and distract the viewer from the dumpster fire of a story going on is the humor, which is genuinely funny in parts. But I think the convenience of finding yourself on a fire escape at magic hour is what ticks me off the most about this dreadful film. Oh, and sorry for using the term “dumpster fire”.

** – Poor

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