Film Review: How to Be Single

by Chad Liffmann on February 11, 2016

A modern romantic comedy with its heart and mind (and humor) in the right place.

50 Shades of Singledom

Fifty Shades of Singledom

It’s rare that I’m this nervous to write a film review! Perhaps it’s the fact that How to Be Single surpassed all my expectations. Or maybe its that I feel that by accidentally omitting any aspect that I loved about the film, I’d be doing the film a disservice. Maybe I’m nervous because I feel that my excitement for the film is a byproduct of being caught off guard by its hilarious yet sensitive handling of serious topics, and therefore maybe I’m overhyping it? The fact of the matter is that How to Be Single is one of the best romantic comedies in a long while, and does more than just continue the recent (wonderful) surge in female-led rated-R comedies. How to Be Single balances awkward conversational humor with crude humor exceptionally well and doesn’t let up even when its time for the story to enter ’emotional climax’ mode, all the while sending strong messages about dating through adulthood.

How to Be Single starts by introducing us to sweet romantic Alice (Dakota Johnson)who decides a few years post-college that her long term relationship with kindhearted boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) needs a temporary break. Upon arriving to New York City, Alice quickly befriends her crude-coworker Robin (a hysterical Rebel Wilson) and almost immediately finds herself experiencing a crash course in the drunken nightlife for single party-goers, complete with drunken hookups and testing the bounds of emotional crutches. Meanwhile, and partly connected, Lucy (Alison Brie) is a data-driven hopeless romantic confiding in a stereotyped sex-driven egomaniac bartender Tom (Anders Holm). Lucy’s story has the weakest, eye-rolling start but picks up steam halfway through and finishes in spectacular fashion. The majority of the film’s running time is spent following the lustful and loving pursuits, and drunken binges, of Alice and Robin, with a tangential story revolving around Alice’s sister, Meg (Leslie Mann).

Even with a fair amount of romantic comedy tropes at play, including a few very frustrating ones, the plot lines come to a uniquely satisfying finish in the excellent last 15 minutes of How to Be Single. But that doesn’t mean the first hour and a half is bad. On the contrary, the characters are well rounded (and eclectic) and the jokes are varied and hit hard and often. The audience was in stitches on multiple occasions — enough so that another viewing may reveal even more jokes that were muted by laughter. Even more impressive is the diverse cast, utilized well and with no comments or sly remarks made toward ethnicities or physical appearances for the entire course of the movie (!). And it’s to this point that I must give How to Be Single the most well-deserved credit. To not give in to the traditional norms of the Hollywood romantic genre must’ve been a challenge on the writing and directing fronts, but whether you notice it or not, How to Be Single may have just set a small but strong precedent moving forward.

Don’t let the poster, title, and trailer fool you — How to Be Single is a lot smarter than the marketing campaign suggests. The film still has it’s fair share of fun party sequences and sexual humor, so it’s not that its smarts get in the way of a raunchy good time. Rebel Wilson’s somewhat tiresome shtick is a lot more fitting in the structure and context of this story than, say, Pitch Perfect, and Dakota Johnson does a good job delivering a complex female lead, navigating the clichés and surprises of the script well (which is very loosely based on a novel of the same name). Adult men and women will get a kick out of it so don’t rule How to Be Single out when date night, boy’s night, girl’s night, or any random night comes around and you feel like a good time at the movies. There’s more to the movie than meets the eye and even more to reminisce when the credits roll.

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How to Be Single opens in theaters Friday, Feb. 12th.

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