I was thinking…
…every once in a while, a story–be it a movie, book or song–is told and accepted as the benchmark of its type. For the ensemble cast, vignette-based romantic comedy, 2003’s Love Actually has established itself as the go-to film of the sub-genre. But other than Bill Nighy’s humorous aging rock star and Rowan Atkinson’s hilarious jewelry counter clerk, Love Actually was really more a foray into the pain and heartache love can cause rather than a comedic romantic jaunt.
How to Be Single, on the other hand, manages to reach the comedic heights Love Actually meant to.
Just as its predecessor, How to Be Single introduces disparate characters that all eventually end up being linked to one another. If there is a central protagonist, that would be plain Jane–Alice (Dakota Johnson—Black Mass).
Separating from her college boyfriend after graduation, Alice moves to New York and moves in with her older obstetrician sister, Meg (Leslie Mann—Knocked Up). Making friends with her paralegal co-worker, Robin (Rebel Wilson—Pitch Perfect), Alice is determined to ‘discover’ who she is by being single.
Robin strives to be her guide through the world of single life, which pretty much means getting plowed and then getting, um, plowed.
Funny how many euphemisms are derived from farming.
Alice and her ex-boyfriend keep crossing paths in the big city, while Meg begins to finally feel the pulls of her maternal instinct. Opting for the sperm donor route, Meg’s life is further complicated when she falls for a different one of Alice’s co-workers, a receptionist named Ken (Jake Lacy—Carol).
What none of the characters realize, however, is trying to remain single can actually require as much effort as being in a relationship.
Perhaps one of the most pleasant things about this film is that hardly any of the main characters are what one would consider “Hollywood pretty.” Most of them are, in terms of attractiveness, approachable, which is in stark contrast to most s0-called rom-com’s. From Alice’s nerd romance to Robin’s overweight slut-keteer life, it’s oddly believable.
What is hard to digest, on the other hand, is the amount of whining these 20-something’s do about how they’re afraid of dying alone and how they don’t really know who they are, blah, blah, blah. News flash: your life isn’t that hard. You just graduated college and you already have a job that enables you to live on your own in Manhattan! You’re young, healthy and gainfully employed. Nut up, grow up and realize how fortunate you really are. Jeez!
Also not impressive is Rebel Wilson playing….uh…Rebel Wilson. Can someone even be considered a character actor if the character one is always portraying is oneself?
Although Dakota Johnson’s Alice is meant to be the central character, the dynamic created by Leslie Mann and the somewhat younger Jake Lacy is what truly carries the picture. I am not a rom-com aficionado by any means, but their chemistry was truly fun to watch.
Furthermore, How to Be Single pokes fun of the very genre to which it belongs. Wait for Dakota Johnson’s short scene in a taxi cab near the end and you’ll understand perfectly.
Above all, the best aspects of the film lay in its unpredictability. Just when you think you know how it’s going to end and who is going to end up with whom, the writers throw a curve ball. Actually, they throw several.
Even though it is not necessarily a film for the ages by any means, How to Be Single does contain a much larger grain of hope than the reigning vignette rom-com king, Love Actually. And for my money and overall sanity, the film that shows love is a positive thing and not a well of despair is the one to see.
Ammo Dump rating: 6 out of 10 beers
I’ll talk more about this film and others during my radio show every Friday afternoon at 4:10 pm. Listen in on WJBC-AM1230 in Central Illinois. For the rest of the world, listen on @ALphaEXray.. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter
How to Be Single
Run time: 110 minutes