How to be Single


★★

Directed by Christian Ditter

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann, Alison Brie

Film review by Kieran Freemantle


The rom-com, a genre that has been often seen as an excuse for studios to release lazily made films by filmmakers phoning it in for an easy pay cheque. But in recent years films like 500 Days of Summer and I Give it a Year have tried to subvert the conventions of the sub-genre and How to be Single attempts to follow their example.

How to be Single follows four women in New York City - Alice (Dakota Johnson), a recent graduate from Wesleyan University who puts her relationship on a break; Meg (Leslie Mann), Alice's sister who has focused on her career as a doctor instead of looking for a man or have a child; Lucy (Alison Brie), a woman looking for her perfect man but goes full bunny boiler when she is in a relationship; and Robin (Rebel Wilson), Alice's new co-worker and a hard drinking, hard partying woman who is looking for men to sleep with. All four have to navigate the city to find love and fulfilment in the Big Apple.

How to be Single is basically a female-centric movie version of How I Met Your Mother, having a similar style of comedy, visuals and philosophies on romance. Throughout the film characters like Lucy and Robin tell how difficult it is to find “the one”, even in a city the size of New York and that Robin is of the view that women should have fun and hook-up with everyone and anyone. She is the female version of Barney Stinson who looks to find new ways to pull men, waking up not remembering if she slept with someone and should be a walking collection of STDs. Robin's pearls of wisdom even have an air of Barney to them like her description of a drink limit that a couple needs to reach so they can sleep with each other.

How to be Single was directed by Love Rosie's Christian Ditter and he borrows visual tricks from How I Met Your Mother, like numbers coming up on beers that had been drunk and showing one character looking for wifi signal. Other visions are displayed like when text messages could be argued are just part of the modern film landscape.

Unlike How I Met Your Mother, How to be Single is more raunchy than its small screen counterpart. Rebel Wilson was basically told to be Rebel Wilson, keeping her shtick of being very crude, talking about her sex life and getting very drunk which will lead to questions about how is she able to keep her job. Other jokes revolve around one man's impressive erection that was on full display and an unfortunate date for Lucy where her companion for the night tells us all his sexual kinks.

There are more low key moments of humour in the film that could have fit in How I Met Your Mother like Lucy meeting an engaged old school friend in a bar while she was wearing jogging bottoms and Alice's banter with Damon Wayans Jr's David - a wealthy single father and potential partner. However these moments are very light with Wilson having to do most of the comedic heavy lifting - meaning your liking for this film depends on your tolerance for her style of comedy. If it wasn't for Wilson's presence then How to be Single would have been a dramedy more than a comedy. There are also moments where the characters break down for the purpose of comedy, but it's just tragic.


Dakota Johnson is playing a character similar to Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey, a slightly naive recent university graduate who moves to the big city (she went to the same university as three of the How I Met Your Mother characters), someone who needs to be shown the ropes (pun unintended). She was a likeable if dull presence. Leslie Mann too was likeable as Meg (even if you cannot get Family Guy references out of your head) and acts believably as an older sister - one moment that rings very true is how she wakes up her hung-over sister. Though she suffers from her arc of being an independent woman to someone who feels she needs a baby.

Alison Brie's character has no interaction with Alice, Meg or Robin - only having tenuous links to them, going to the same bar and sharing a love interest with Alice. She could have been cut from the film and it would have made no bearing to the rest of the movie. This is indicative of the film as whole, that it was more a collection of events then a coherent plot. There are some narrative through lines and arcs for character but it is kept in the background: making How to be Single into an aimless experience.

How to be Single does offer the occasional laugh out loud moment, but its trailers were misleading, making it look like a wall-to-wall laugh fest. It is a very messy film, filled with needless subplots, characters and Rebel Wilson looking like she came from another film.

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