I suppose “How To Feel Happy and Enriched Living an Independent Life” doesn’t have the same ring as How To Be Single, but that’s ultimately the intended message of the new female-centric comedy to hit theaters on Valentine’s Day.
Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann and Alison Brie take the lead and tell the stories of four single women navigating love, relationships and friendships in New York City. Johnson plays Alice, a recent college graduate who decides to take a break from her longtime boyfriend to move to the city and try out being single for awhile. She stays with her sister, Meg (Mann), a doctor who has given up on relationships and decides to have a baby on her own to fulfill her newly burgeoning maternal feelings. At work, Alice meets Robin (Wilson), a wild and fun single gal who is Alice’s guide to hook-ups, drinking and partying. At one of the bars Robin and Alice frequent is where you can find Lucy (Brie), who takes advantage of Tom’s (the bar owner played by Anders Holm) free wi-fi to monitor all of her internet dating accounts. How To Be Single intertwines each of these women’s stories throughout the span of a year and how single life shapes and leads them on a path to love and/or self-discovery.
There is a good message in How To Be Single. Johnson’s Alice is really the lead here, and we see how she yearns for independence in the beginning but after a brief flirtation or two with freedom longs to be back in a relationship – only that’s not an option for her anymore. The other stories seem framed around Alice’s path to figuring out “how to be single.” Frankly, it takes too many failed relationships and mishaps for her to figure it out, and just like a never-ending party, it’s hard to not eventually feel a little restless by it all.
As for Alice’s sister, Meg, they had a real opportunity to make a statement about single motherhood as a choice and opted for a cliche (if cute) happily ever after for the character. The only good thing to come out of it is an adorable performance from Jake Lacy, who is featured in my second favorite scene in the movie.
My most favorite scene involves the very frustrated and single, Lucy, who tends to come on a little too strong in her new relationships and scares her partners away. She has a meltdown in front a group of children that leads to her trying to cut her Spanx off with construction paper scissors. It was the craziest and funniest scene that sort of nailed just how annoying it is for women to adhere to unspoken list of societal rules to attract a desirable significant other.
Finally, there’s Robin. Rebel Wilson once again plays the overly-confident big girl without a problem in the world. The opening scene has Wilson dancing in dress with a flashing arrow pointing to her V. It’s ridiculous and over the top, and it’s supposed to make you laugh. But would it be as funny if Brie, Johnson or Mann were wearing the same dress and dancing the same way? I’m going to assume not. That’s the problem I have with Robin; she may not make any actual jokes about her size, but it’s implied in almost everything she does. Does Robin get a romantic happy ending by the end of the film? What do you think? Wilson is funny, but it’s frustrating that her “body positivity” is primarily a sham.
How To Be Single, with its on-the-nose song cues (Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” opens the film), isn’t anything new besides seeing Anders Holm in a new absurdly attractive light. Okay, honestly, it partly does work as a refreshing romantic comedy that will nicely compliment a fun girls night out. No one will leave knowing anything more about how to be single than what you’d get from a typical Cosmo article, but the movie is fun, has a ton of heart and a positive ending message that shouldn’t be disregarded.
How To Be Single is now playing in theaters.