How to Be Single - Happy Valentine's Day, Single People

Matthew Parkinson | 14 Feb 2016 12:00
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Directed by Christian Ditter. Produced by Drew Barrymore, Dana Fox, Nancy Juvonen, and John Rickard. Written by Dana Fox Abby Kohn, and Marc Silverstein. Release date: February 12, 2016.

There's a stigma against being single. You can't be successful and happy if you're not in a romantic relationship, we're told. So, then, here comes How to Be Single, which aims to teach its viewers that they, can, indeed, be both of those things without having a partner. Does it completely succeed? Not really, but it's a start. It's an attempt to subvert the stupid rom-com cliches of which we've all grown tired, and even though it ultimately doesn't work all the way isn't reason to throw it in the trash. It's a prototype, and maybe somewhere along the line someone will pick up the pieces and reassemble them into something better.

How to Be Single follows four women in New York City. Alice (Dakota Johnson) is the closest we get to a lead. She's recently asked her boyfriend to take a break so that she can find herself - she's never really been single, and that means she's adapted her personality to fit the relationship she's been in, not what she truly needs. At a law firm, she meets Robin (Rebel Wilson), who is perpetually single and would rather stay the night with literally any guy than go home alone. Meg (Leslie Mann) is Alice's sister, a single doctor who decided to focus on her career than a relationship or children, believing that they'd hinder her potential. She decides to have a child with the help of a sperm donor. Finally, Lucy (Alison Brie) is looking for love using a numerical system to weed out anyone not compatible with her - and isn't having the most amount of luck.

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That's a lot going on, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that How to Be Single is an unfocused mess. It goes from subplot to subplot, rarely getting to the point, and mostly just throwing its leads through various situations whose outcomes are easy to figure out. Alice goes through a few men - Robin's advice to her is that, if you are single, you should sleep around - before figuring out what she really wants, while Robin disappears for much of the film and comes across more as someone who exists just to teach Alice lessons. Meg finds one guy (Jake Lacy) who is basically the nicest guy ever, while Lucy learns that maybe, just maybe, love can't be algorithmically determined.

Mostly, though, we just watch these individuals do whatever they want, with whomever they want, before the film eventually declares what it means to be single, and how one should cherish it - for however brief or long a period they may find themselves in that state. It doesn't organically weave this throughout the film, as its characters don't even figure out anything of importance until the last 20 minutes, at which point an epiphanic monologue tells us that one of them has finally "got it."

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