“How to Be Single” movie review

By Jeff Boudreaux


In “How to Be Single,” stars Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann, and Alison Brie provide the viewer with a quasi-humorous crash course on the single life. More accurately, the film should be called “How to Live in New York and Engage in Meaningless Hookups after Drinking More Alcohol than Your Body is Accustomed to!” Don’t believe me? It’s one of the basic tenets propagated throughout this story by Liz Tuccillo and Mark Silverstein (“He’s Just Not That into You”). The real problem with this comedy of hipsters, sexual exploits and on-and-off relationships is that no actual laughs arrive until midway into the film (unless you’re prone to be amused by Rebel Wilson’s unrestrained antics).

Alice (Dakota Johnson) just randomly wants to take a break from her college boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun). Of course, he thinks she’s breaking up with him (wouldn’t we all?!). For all intents and purposes, she is, since our heroine wants to enjoy what life has to offer a pretty young woman with no significant other. To begin her journey of self-discovery, she moves in with her sister Meg (Leslie Mann) and takes on a job as a paralegal at a law firm that is so lax it actually hired Rebel Wilson! Her character “Robin,” promptly gives Alice a grand tour of the best and worst office spots to have sex (never in the copy room because of the camera). The two girls become inseparable after endless nights of drunken debauchery, yet the single life isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be for Alice. In fact, after a few weeks she decides how much she misses Josh. Well, as anyone who has ever seen a romantic comedy would know, he’s now happy and engaged to another woman. As for the older and wiser Meg, she’s a single obstetrician that happens to be envious of all the cute babies she delivers. Of course, with no boyfriend, her only instantaneous option is to conceive with an anonymous donor (hilarious right?).

Then there’s Lucy (Alison Brie of “Mad Men”), who lives above the popular hangout known as “Tom’s Bar,” run by who else but Tom (Anders Holm of “The Intern”). When her Wi-Fi mooching doesn’t exactly pay off in dividends (she’s registered with 12 different dating sites), she becomes a pajama-wearing regular at the bar, while getting in Tom’s hair (and his head). Tom serves as a glue of sorts to hold the unrelated plights of Lucy and Alice/Robin/Meg together, and he’s also the king of the one-night-stand. He even has gone as far as to have his apartment rigged so that a cotton-mouthed female conquest won’t have a reason to stay in the morning due to the lack of food, water or even drinking glasses in the house! Several other men come into the girls’ lives, including Ken from the law office (Jake Lacy of “Carol”), real estate developer David (Damon Wayans, Jr.), and bookstore owner George (Jason Mantzoukas of “The League”), who may be Lucy’s Mr. Right – unless Tom has something to say about that! Oh, and you just knew that Josh would come back into the picture at some point, didn’t you? With such eligible bachelor-material abounding, will the girls manage to stay single, or will old flames reignite? Will you even care?

This film was grasping at straws for what an attempt at quirky, raunchy humor should be and it fails considerably. In fact, the film plays like a “female” version of “That Awkward Moment,” and that’s really not a complement if you’ve seen that movie! It becomes quite obvious from the start that Dakota Johnson is not ready to be a comic lead, and I can only imagine diehard Rebel Wilson fans will appreciate her exasperatingly unfunny performance. If there is any saving grace in this film, it’s the performances of the third and fourth-billed actresses. Leslie Mann has proven time and again that she is one of the best comedic actresses today, and even though she isn’t given the best material to work with, her interplay with Jake Lacy provides most of the film’s genuine laughs, including a riotously funny scene when Meg and Ken first meet at Alice’s office Christmas party. They also happen to share one of the film’s genuinely heartfelt moments. I also have to say that I really enjoyed Alison Brie’s performance, who in her limited screen time delivers some of the film’s best scenes. One particular highlight has the rhetorically post-breakup Lucy experiencing a long-overdue meltdown after reading “story time” to a group of children in a bookstore, when her hair starts falling out and she even attempts to cut the pantyhose from her legs (with childproof scissors)!

After the last credit rolled, I can’t imagine why anyone thought that this finished product would be a good idea. Scenes intended for poignancy miss the mark completely, and two genuinely funny actresses are held back in favor of two unsatisfying flavors of the month, so to speak. The film probably would have worked better had Lucy and Meg been sisters and there were no Alice or Robin to mention, but I digress. And to make matters worse, the film goes on at least twenty minutes longer than what a story of this caliber normally requires. While I can’t say that I actually hated this movie, I felt as if it wasted my time for the most part with laughs coming way too sporadically for my taste.


* ½ (one and a half out of four stars)


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