How to Be Single (2016)

How to Be Single (2016)
  • Time: 110 min
  • Genre: Comedy | Romance
  • Director: Christian Ditter
  • Cast: Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann


There’s a right way to be single, a wrong way to be single, and then…there’s Alice. And Robin. Lucy. Meg. Tom. David. New York City is full of lonely hearts seeking the right match, be it a love connection, a hook-up, or something in the middle. And somewhere between the teasing texts and one-night stands, what these unmarrieds all have in common is the need to learn how to be single in a world filled with ever-evolving definitions of love. Sleeping around in the city that never sleeps was never so much fun.


  • 2016’s How to Be Single (my latest review) takes place in New York City. Unless you’ve been living in an igloo somewhere, you’d know that it’s the biggest hub in the whole United States (8 million denizens and counting). Somehow though, every character in “Single” seems to coincidentally run into each other as if it’s the town of Mayberry. The Big Apple contains five boroughs, hundreds of neighborhoods, and almost 500 square miles. Small world? I don’t think so.

    Anyway, despite featuring a comic force of nature in Rebel Wilson, marginally good looking actors/actresses, and a look of NYC that is as glistening as ever, How to Be Single is a directionless romcom. It’s the type of vehicle that requires a tacked-on, concluding narration device just to let you know what’s really going on. Oh and by the way, this film has a made-up notion of a drinking hookup rule (the number of alcoholic beverages a man and a woman would have to consume before they fall into bed together). Total ludicrousness!

    At a running time of just under 2 hours and penned by three screenwriters, “Single” uses tactics that other (general) flicks have presented over the past few years (visible text messaging, tired d*ck jokes, droll fast cutting). As buffoonery, it’s a pre-Valentine’s Day release that’s a legend in its own mind or should I say, an unknown director’s catacomb that marches to the beat of its own drum. The story is as follows: Alice (Dakota Johnson) is a career woman who dumps her college boyfriend so that she can find herself as a young adult. She moves in with her sister (Leslie Mann as Meg), finds a job as a paralegal, and bar hops with her party girl/co-worker named Robin (Rebel Wilson). Over periods of fast-forwarding (fall season, Xmas, St. Patrick’s Day), Alice runs into ex-boyfriends, has a one night stand or two, and eventually decides that she’s better off not being in any kind of relationship at all. Johnson isn’t much of an acting force but she’s darn adorable. I’m no casting agent but I feel she’s still pretty much perfect for her role.

    By hook or by crook, How to Be Single is R-rated, has the obligatory bad language, and contains the required, flask notions of innuendo. However, I was surprised at how non-juvenile it was compared to most raunchy comedies. The filmmakers and everyone else involved really wanted to say something. Too bad the proceedings get drowned in a vat of drunkenness, casual sex, self-prophesied female starlets, and douche-like, male characters (Anders Holm as a womanizing bartender and Nicholas Braun as a manipulative suitor). Disappointing. Rating: 2 stars.

    Of note: Hallmark’s favorite holiday has passed but I still think every guy should avoid taking a date to see “Single”. With its demoralizing of women just looking for Mr. Right, you as gentlemanly John Doe might be cursed by your sweetie or relegated, significant other. All strapping males have been warned.

    Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

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  • How to Be Single revolves around four women who navigate the Manhattan dating scene, philosophising and cracking wise through a series of one-night stands, friendships with benefits, and wonky relationships. If it sounds all too familiar, it’s because this R-rated romp is based on the first novel by Liz Tuccillo, who was both writer and story editor for HBO’s Sex and the City.

    Directed by Christian Ditter and adapted from Tuccillo’s novel by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox, How to Be Single begins with Alice (Dakota Johnson), who wants to experience life on her own before settling down with college boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun). Josh doesn’t understand why they need to have a temporary break from one another – can’t she just sleep with one of his friends to get this idea out of her head, he jokes – but she wants to be able to live alone with herself and learn to do things on her own after spending all of her life being cared for, first by her parents and then by Josh.

    She heads to New York where she crashes on the couch of big sister Meg (Leslie Mann), an obstetrician who encourages Alice to stop worrying about her romantic travails and prioritise her professional ambitions. Freewheeling co-worker Robin (Rebel Wilson), on the other hand, insists Alice take full advantage of her singlehood by partying and getting drunk until daybreak and finding her inner goddess with the smorgasbord of men the city has to offer. Robin literally pushes Alice into the arms of Tom (Anders Holm), a bartender and committed bachelor who schools Alice in the ways of casual sex and avoiding long-term commitments.

    Tom also offers the same counsel to Lucy (Alison Brie), whose mission to find a man to marry involves dating websites, Excel spreadsheets and analysing algorithms. Brie is ever delightful and Lucy’s breakdown during a children’s book reading is one of the highlights of the film, but Lucy is a glaring example of how the filmmakers stuff the film with unnecessary characters. Yes, Lucy’s obsessive desperation falls under the film’s thematic umbrella but she has no direct connection to Alice, Meg or Robin, and so her exploits feel out of place and given more attention than they warrant. The same can be said for Damon Wayans Jr.’s David, a single dad who sparks with Alice. Mild drama is brewed about the protective walls he’s built after the death of his wife, but there’s no real follow through.

    The focus on these secondary and tertiary characters wouldn’t be so bothersome if they didn’t detract from the more interesting and often more hilarious tales of the main players, particularly Mann’s storyline with Jake Lacy. The happily childless Meg predictably wants to be a mother after being conquered by one of her patient’s babies. Just as she becomes pregnant via a sperm donor, she’s ardently pursued by the much-younger Ken (Jake Lacy). Mann and Lacy have such winning chemistry and impeccable comic delivery that they easily overcome the more formulaic beats of their particular narrative.

    Johnson proves herself to be an awkwardly charming presence and a perfect foil for the unstoppable Wilson who, unsurprisingly, tosses off many of the film’s funniest lines. Of the hit-it-and-quit-it Tom: “He’s a palate cleanser, a sexual sorbet.” Of Alice’s nether regions: “It’s like you dropped your hairbrush and your vagina caught it. I could make dreadlocks with that bush and form a reggae band.”

    While it never genuinely explores its titular premise, How to Be Single is nevertheless a solid effort with a great deal of laugh out loud moments and a terrific cast.

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