How to Be Single has Too Many Stories for a Second Date
How to Be Single
Directed by: Christian Ditter
Screenplay by: Dana Fox, Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Based on How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo
Starring: Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann, Anders Holm, Nicholas Braun, Jake Lacy
Running time 109 minutes
Rated R for sexual content and strong language throughout
There’s a right way to be single, a wrong way to be single, and then…there’s Alice. Alice(Dakota Johnson) is a young twenty something never-been-single recent graduate of Wesleyan University, where she met her boyfriend Josh(Nicholas Braun). After graduation, she decided it was time to take a break from their relationship so she could learn what it’s like to be single, and discover who she really is. What she discovers is that she is really bad at being single. Fortunately for Alice she met Robin (Rebel Wilson) and local bar-owner Tom (Anders Holm), who are extremely good at being single and decide to educate Alice. However, Alice’s lessons in being single are marred by relationships, and her belief that she needs one. Lucy (Alison Brie) is also burdened with this driving need to find a relationship, to do this she has written a custom algorithm for online dating websites to find her perfect match, however this predictably backfires time as time again, as Tom the bartender, who has allowed Lucy to use his Wi-Fi, slowly realizes he is falling for her. Meanwhile Meg (Leslie Mann), Alice’s middle-aged sister, and dedicated childless single obstetrician, has finally decided to have a baby via in vitro fertilization. Shortly after she becomes pregnant, she meets Ken (Jake Lacy) who rejects the idea that their tryst is anything but transitory. What they all have in common is the need to learn how to be single in a world filled with ever-evolving definitions of love.
The most significant complaint I have with this film is the overabundance of individual narratives that hobble the film and prevent any of them from fully developing. All the individual stories were or could have been interesting enough on their own to carry the film had they been fleshed out enough to convey a beginning to end story. It was like watching a greatest hit highlights collection of all the best parts of several other films, the result was that I only cared about two characters in the end. Those two characters were Meg and Ken; this is largely due to the performances of Leslie Mann and Jake Lacy. I could watch a full-length film about a middle-aged doctor, pregnant by IVF, who starts dating a mid-twenties receptionist that does not know she is pregnant. These two actors have brilliant comedic timing and fantastic chemistry together, unlike Dakota Johnson, who has no sense of timing or chemistry. Johnson is chemically inert in this film, failing to connect with anyone beyond being physically present as all the jokes bounce off her dull wooden face. I wonder if Director Christian Ditter forgot to tell her that she needed to react to Rebel Wilson in a way that does not leave her acting like a 17-year-old that does not really want to be there.
How to Be Single ends up being a mostly forgettable film that I vaguely remember making me laugh half a handful of times. It falls somewhere between being patronizing and overly contrived juvenile humor, and I enjoy juvenile humor. I am afraid it will dupe single people on Valentine’s Day into feeling as if they need to justify their lack of relationship status. To save you some time the moral of the story is being single is okay. I hope that I just saved you $8 on a single movie ticket.