Movie Review - How To Be Single

Liz Tuccillo co-wrote the book He's Just Not That Into You, which was a popular, self-help piece aimed at women to recognize when or if a man wants to be in a relationship and when or if he doesn't. The book was adapted into a feature film in 2009.

Tuccillo's first novel is the basis for this film. It follows the dating life of a young paralegal in Manhattan who just recently broke up with her college boyfriend and is learning to only have casual flings, nothing committed. What's weird is that Tuccillo was a writer for Sex and the City and there's a reference here, which seeks to mock or put that HBO series down, but essentially this movie is not that much different. It's kind of Sex and the City meets Lena Dunham's Girls. It's somewhat progressive in its aims, but nothing special.

Like Sex and the City and Girls, this movie centers around four women. Dakota Johnson (Fifty Shades of Grey) stars as Alice, the paralegal in question who met her college boyfriend, Josh, played by Nicholas Braun, immediately and stayed with him through her college time.

Alice and Josh have a meet-cute in the opening of the film and then it smash-cuts to Alice breaking up with Josh for no particular reason. She seems to do it only to kick off the plot or story. As the movie goes along, we're given hints of the relationship between Alice and Josh, but the movie fails at showing us what that relationship actually was, which proves an important point that the movie should have showed.

If the film had never included Josh again after she dumps him in college, or after he announces that he has a new girlfriend, it would have been fine, but the film keeps going back to him. By the end, it only repeats the theme of He's Just Not That Into You, and, as such, it makes Josh pointless because we don't need to see that point rehashed. Yes, Alice says something at the end that tries to make Josh purposeful, but that something is just lipstick on a pig.

This movie claims to be about Alice learning that she doesn't need to be in a committed relationship with a man. It's okay to have just casual hookups and it's okay to be by oneself. Yet, it's so clunkily done. For example, there's a kind of joke that's introduced called "drink number." It's unclear if this drink number is supposed to be an excuse for sexual liberation or if it's a cover for guilty actions. As executed, it leads to a scene that is the definition of gratuitous, absolutely meaningless.

It doesn't help that the gratuitous scene is between Alice and a guy who is probably the most obnoxious and unlikable character, Tom, played by Anders Holm. Tom owns and is the bartender for a Manhattan pub. He's seemingly the ultimate playboy. He's only about having sex with women and having absolutely no relationships. He certainly has no empathy for women or most anyone else probably.

He's not a mean or horrible person, but, to him, women are only holes to put his penis and once he's done, he throws them away or make sure they get the hint to get out his apartment without actually talking to them. I wish the screenplay by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox was smart enough to challenge a character like that because there is a bit of a disconnect. Alice should have asked him what he even needs women for. If he's all about sex and nothing else, he could just masturbate. The fact that he has sex with a warm body proves it's not just about the sex. Instead of exploring that, the movie does the cliche thing and non-surprisingly pairs him with the girl who is not about sex and is only about getting married, falling to the hackneyed idea that opposites attract.

Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect) plays Robin, the chubby and slutty girl. She's basically the Samantha of this movie, except she's a different body type. Being chubby and slutty is a shtick she's done before. It's not far flung from what Melissa McCarthy has done in prior films. It gets to be a bit annoying because it's revealed that Robin is just a privileged and spoiled, rich girl.

Leslie Mann (The Other Woman) plays Meg, a lonely OB-GYN who is Alice's older sister. She wants to have a baby but not find a husband. She decides to have artificial insemination, but she is approached by a cute, younger guy named Ken, played by Jake Lacy (The Office and Girls). What's weird is that Lacy was in a great film called Obvious Child (2014), which has a story-line very similar to Lacy's story-line here. Yet, what Obvious Child does well, this one does wrong.

The movie might have been better if there were less focus on Alice's dating life and more focus on anything else about her like her job as a paralegal or any interests otherwise. Having Robin be Alice's only friend is also a bit frustrating. Damon Wayans, Jr. (New Girl and Happy Endings) also has a subplot that felt super extraneous and even cloying. I'm glad Wayans is given his own story-line but it felt tacked onto this movie.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for sexual content and strong language throughout.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 50 mins.


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