Going into this Valentine’s Day holiday weekend, “How To Be Single” does something that is refreshingly different from your typical Valentine’s Day Chick Flick movie fare. Rather than staying inside it’s box via delivering come cute laughs and an obligatory good cry scene about the difficulty of being alone, “How To Be Single” actually investigates what it is to be single and finds some serious laughter and real life authenticity along the way. While it can’t be said that it strays far enough outside of it’s decidedly feminine neighborhood to be a movie for guys to see without a girl, it is definitely a film that can be seen by both sexes on neutral ground and honestly enjoyed as such… and double that if you are female, triple if you are female and single. As a movie, “How To Be Single” manages to stay the fine line of remaining light enough to be very funny but also deep enough to be affecting as a realistic examination of the concept that being single isn’t an affliction but something to be better discovered - which sets this movie apart from most of it’s sister fare as having a realistic shelf life outside of it’s Valentine’s season release date.
Per the usual studio memo, “How To Be Single” starts off bright eyed and bushy tailed with its four obligatory stock single girl movie characters. Alison Brie aptly plays Lucy, the clichéd uptight girl who is downright neurotic in the intensity of her itch to get married. Dakota Johnson is “acting in my sleep” typecast as Alice, the hotter than average but inexplicably still average girl who has never not been in a relationship. Rebel Wilson is to order hilarious as Robin, the funny because she’s just so explicitly outrageous as the promiscuous party girl. And finally, Leslie Mann plays Meg, that gloomy girl putting a brave face on being single for life and for career, with the added welcome twist that she is a bit older than your average Hollywood certified fresh single girl and yet not stamped slutty or prudish. Tying up the whole package is the one with a package, Tom, the unrepentant playboy whom most all of our heroines meet cute via of because of his bar, as played well by Anders Holm. However, the real magic occurs immediately after this fairly standard set up. All of these characters go to very interesting and unpredictable places over the dramatic and comedic course of “How To Be Single,” making this movie a very fresh and creative breath of air. As a real and credible study on the many diverse ways that one can navigate single life in a world that is not two dimensional or planned, “How To Be Single” sends the often botched cinematic message that being single is not a sentence that is good or bad, but simply another part of life. As it eventually affects us all – sometimes more than once, and often against our will, we might as well settle in and learn the best way to do it that makes us happy. This would seem to be the special take away from this film in a way that is not at all hackneyed or insincere – which is to the great credit of all involved in the making of the film.
While the film possesses it’s big comedic hitters in Wilson, Mann, Holm and also Damon Wayans Jr. and Jason Mantzoukas, the expectation as well as the opportunities that they are given to shine never upstage the construct of the movie itself, which is a large part of the tangible success of “How To Be Single” as an all encompassing yet organic romantic comedy.
The only quibble for this film might be that it might have been nice if one of the four girls (or at least one of their female friends or co-workers) had been something other than a single white female. Per the usual HBO “Girls” type NYC whitewashing, it would appear that that sort of unicorn simply wasn’t available. However, the addition of Wayans and Mantzoukas as something more than unexamined date montage material is worth something if not nothing in this #OscarsSoWhite 2016 reality. Also, if one is looking for an examination of being single beyond being straight, this movie will not deliver on that count either. However, if you are not all about checking off all of your identity boxes in one go, this is a very good film about relationships to see this weekend and enjoy - if not beyond.
Overall Grade B+, with a definite yes for theatre viewing.