How to Be Single Directed by Christian Ditter
Published Feb 12, 2016Is Dakota Johnson slowly becoming the face of bad Valentine's Day movies for singles? Because, as if last year's Razzie-nominated Fifty Shades of Grey weren't enough, she returns to take the oomph out of your night out with How to Be Single, a film that posits itself as an antidote to all the other holiday schlock hitting theatres this month (The Choice, I'm looking at you), yet simply treads the same old rom-com ground, mining no new comedic gems in the process.
As if watching her SNL performances weren't enough indication already, spoiler alert: Johnson isn't a particularly adept comedic actress, and she hasn't displayed much talent in any of her other films so far. (It's too early to blame things on nepotism, but gosh, it's not looking good.) The quick fix: Saddle up some stronger performers alongside her to play her quirky friends (namely Leslie Mann, Alison Brie and Rebel Wilson), as well a couple of comedic actors (New Girl's Damon Wayans Jr., Workaholics' Anders Holm, and everyone's favourite utility player, Jason Mantzoukas) and you've got this year's first big ensemble comedy.
Although it plants its action squarely in New York City, make no mistake: How to Be Single is less When Harry Met Sally and more Valentine's Day, complete with the kind of crappy life lessons and hetero-romantic advice that make men and women even more confused by, and unable to communicate with, one another.
Johnson plays Alice, a Wesleyan grad, who, after being in the same relationship since her freshman year, decides to take a break from her boyfriend and move to the big city to pursue her paralegal career. By the time she wants him back, though, he's already moved on and she suddenly must learn how to cope with being alone.
To be fair, the final 15 minutes of the film do present some ideas about the positive side of single life, an angle rarely explored in major motion pictures like this one. But to get there, the viewer must endure an hour and 45 minutes of the same tired tropes and broken archetypes we've seen in romantic comedies time and time again, including the single woman who doesn't want to stop being the life of the party (Wilson), the one who can't settle down (Brie, as a vaguely creepy online dater looking to find her match with the same kind of math used to construct fantasy sports teams), the careerist who's finally ready to have a kid (Mann, the lone saving grace here), the single father unable to move on from his past wife (Wayans Jr.) and the promiscuous charmer who tells it like it is (Holm). It has the feel of a bad Sex and the City episode, which makes sense, considering the movie is based on SATC writer Liz Tuccillo's book of the same name.
Sadly, How to Be Single is less concerned with female empowerment and more with cheap laughs and sticking to the status quo, making this movie the complete opposite of what it should be.