As you know, I have a bit of an issue with most romantic comedies – being a happy, single woman - I hate that rom-coms tend to make that a thing that does not exist, or worse yet, should not exist. The world of romantic comedies wants us as women to understand that we are suffering and unhappy if we are alone, and we only can find happiness dating a man - almost any man. Now, I think we can all agree that is utter and complete nonsense, but it does work for the rom-com framework. In general, most rom-coms stick to the same formula: a meet-cute – the female lead meets the male lead in some ridiculously cute scenario – they date for a while, but just as they are getting serious, some terrible event occurs – and they break up. Then, just before the end, they get back together because one of them learns a lesson. It’s formulaic – and it works really well for that trope. Honestly, Trainwreck last year followed that formula but still managed to be outright hilarious from time to time.
How To Be Single from Director Christian Ditter attempts to both follow that formula and break apart that formula - which oddly enough, works in some places and doesn't work in others so - success?
We meet Alice while she is in college, and dating her serious boyfriend, Josh. She then decides that she’s only really been with him, and perhaps they need a break to really ‘find themselves’. After graduating, she moves to New York City to spend more time with her sister Meg, and starts hanging out with party girl/coworker Robin – who shows her around town and introduces her to bartender Tom – who owns the bar that her apartment is over. Tom is busy interacting with Lucy who spends time in the bar using his wifi to fill out her profiles on multiple dating apps – as she has decided it’s time for her to get married.
Meg decides she’s ready to have a baby, and does so via a clinic, having no real desire to have a man a part of the situation. Just afterwards she meets Ken, who is much younger than her, but proves to be very interested in her. Meanwhile, Alice flirts with Tom, but realizes he’s not a permanent match, she reconnects with Josh to let him know she’s ready to get back together, except that he’s found someone else. She then meets David, a young single father, and they work together for a while until David realizes he’s still not over the issues left from his wife’s death. Tom eventually realizes he’s into Lucy, but she’s started dating George and decided to marry him. Alice is just realizing how much of a true friend Robin is when she has to fight off Josh who wants to fool around with her despite getting married to his new girlfriend. The movie ends with Alice realizing that she’s strong enough on her own and she doesn’t need to chase down love – that it will come to her when she’s ready.
There’s a lot of characters for a rom-com, and a lot of interacting storylines, but really, the movie does a decent job of pulling that off. The problem I had, and really, the problem I always have with Rom-Coms, is that the majority of those tons of characters are really annoying. I did love that this movie allowed the female lead to end up alone, and that she was happy and strong in that decision. Ditter does a good job with the multiple storylines, and while some of them felt a bit disjointed, it did keep the movie interesting.
- Dakota Johnson plays Alice, and was actually a decent lead for a movie like this. She’s sufficiently innocent and naïve, but well-meaning.
- Rebel Wilson plays Robin – who really, they just could have called Rebel. She just seems to play herself, which is fine, because she is funny. I especially like the last scene with her where she and Alice realize they are best friends.
- Leslie Mann plays Meg, and I still find her annoying even though this isn’t her husband’s movie. I thought I found her annoying only in his movies. She does a good job as Meg, a cynical OBGYN who suddenly realizes she wants children, but she’s best when Meg is confused by Ken’s affection and dedication.
- Allison Brie plays Lucy and this character is the most frustrating in the movie because she’s the stereotypical ‘desperate’ single woman in the rom-com. Brie finds a way to get a little bit of charm in there, and really once Tom realizes he’s into her, it was nice to see that she had found someone else – a normal rom-com would have had them end up together.
- Damon Wayans Jr. plays David and does a really good job of being handsome, charming, and understated – but also haunted by his late wife. Just when he thought he was ready to move on – he realizes he’s not quite there.
- Anders Holm plays Tom, and this movie does everything it can to try to convince you that he’s a heartthrob-style leading man. I’m not sure I buy Anders Holm in that role, but hey – he’s serviceable.
- Nicholas Braun plays Josh, and again – super annoying, but not his fault – written that way. Which, of course, means that he does a good job with the material he was given.
- Jake Lacy plays Ken and he is really funny and very charming – he was a bright spot in the movie for me.
- Jason Mantzoukas plays George and he was the other bright spot – I find him hilarious in most movies, and he has a small role here as the man that eventually ends up with Lucy.
Overall, the movie is a bit long, it could have been about 20 minutes shorter – and does feel disjointed from time to time, but it certainly is a different take on a rom-com, and it was mostly enjoyable. I really enjoyed the fact that it ended up showing that for a woman - strong friendships are often more important than dating.
6 out of 10 – gained points for her ending up alone and okay with that.
Bonus – Cast Interviews
Extra Bonus – Baggage Claim – a really predictable rom-com that I enjoyed.