How to be Single ★★★

Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson star in ‘How to be Single’ Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

A Girl’s Guide to Dating New York City Style−Sort Of

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, How to be Single, a refreshing, laugh-out-loud comedy, is erroneously being advertised as a romantic comedy. Nope, no romance here; mainly frustrated single New York women-four to be exact: Alice, Dakota Johnson (50 Shades of Gray, 2015) Robin, Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect 2, 2015), Meg, Leslie Mann (This is 40, 2012) and Lucy, Allison Brie (Sleeping with Other People, 2014). Yep, they’re all navigating the bewildering realm of the dating scene. A pleasant surprise is the toned down in your face acting of late by Rebel Wilson; in “Single,” she delivers relaxed comical timing, just as in Bridesmaids, 2011). I thoroughly enjoyed her performance.

Should credit for Wilson’s standout performance be given to Berlin-based director Christian Ditter (Love, Rosie 2014)? Yes, I would assume he could take some credit, but perhaps it was also the chemistry of the cast. Johnson’s character is reserved, naïve, and sometimes downright milk toast; her softer presence may have set the tone. Clearly, if Wilson played Robin over-the-top as in both Pitch Perfect films, she would have drowned out not only Johnson’s performance but Mann’s placid doctor character as well.

The film takes its name from the book How to be Single by Liz Tuccillo, but that’s as far as it goes. Tuccillo’s book is based on a central woman character that, along with four women, travel the world in search of love. The book is similar to Tuccillo’s writing themes in the Sex and the City HBO show while interlocking with the globe-trekking, love-searching Elizabeth’s Gilbert’s book Eat, Pray Love. Here, the film focuses on all four girls, with Brie having the least screen time. Another surprise is the comical script, with three writers attached (sometimes that can be messy and disjointed). “Single” is clear with its intention and suggests that men and women should enjoy the freedom of being single by embracing that “one moment in life when you can stand on your own.” Yes, that’s a direct quote from the film.

The storyline begins with voiceover by Alice; she’s disenchanted with the idea of not experiencing other people in her current relationship with boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun), with whom she wants to spend the rest of her life. He begs her not to break up, and when they do, you can just guess what happens: she’s miserable and wants to get back together ASAP, although now her ex-boyfriend doesn’t feel the same way.

Without the safety net of Josh, Alice is forced to join the New York dating pool. And who is most likely to provide her dating tips? Yes, Robin, the continuous party girl who’ll be her hangover guide as well as her relationship guide. Robin instructs Alice not to text after she’s spent the night with a “new guy” and if she dares to use those cutesy emojis, she’s merely going to punch her. Think dating advice from He’s Just Not That Into You in reverse, of which both screenplay writers of “Single,” Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein, also have writing credit for the film.

Alice also gets solace from older sister Meg (Leslie Mann), a single workaholic obstetrician who considers a baby to be a “tiny little love terrorist” she never wants to have. A few heartfelt sisterly scenes are shared between them, which actually beef up the script while giving us more insight into the characters.

As mentioned above, Lucy has the least amount of screen time as a perpetual neurotic using Excel spreadsheets along with blind dating to find Mr. Right. She’s desperate in her pursuit, which only masks her true self. There’s not much comedy to be found in her character unless you count her scenes of actually trying to work on her computer while sitting on a barstool chatting with her bartender friend Tom (Anders Holm). Yep, she’s also mooching the free Wi-Fi.

If you watch HBO’s Girls, you’ll have a speedy notion of the film’s tone. You’ll see the women in “Single” clubbing, bar hopping, and dining in similar Brooklyn hot spots along with over forty-five other New York locations.

Producer John Rickard is quoted in the press notes. “We were all over town. In the Meatpacking District, on a Midtown rooftop, Wall Street, Fifth Avenue… And we captured it in a real way. Christian (Ditter) knew how special it was to shoot in New York, and he really got it all.” I’m here to tell you New York City (as a character itself) looks stunningly beautiful and intoxicatingly electrifying.

Don’t miss the hysterical scene when party girl Robin is asked to pack her bags and vacate Meg’s apartment, by Friday no less. When she asks why, Meg states blankly, “Guests aren’t allowed to slide down the trash shoot naked.”

Bottom-line: How to Be Single is a fluffy comedy at times that does have some depth to its script. Who knew that if you are single, you are actually supposed to sit back, relax, and simply enjoy being alone? You’ll see some laugh-out-loud moments between Wilson and Johnson—which is worth the look-see.

Cast: Dakota Johnson (Alice), Rebel Wilson (Robin), Damon Wayans Jr. (David), Anders Holm (Tom), Alison Brie (Lucy),
Nicholas Braun (Josh), Jake Lacy (Ken), with Jason Mantzoukas
(Josh) and Leslie Mann (Meg)

Credits: Director (Christian Ditter) Writers (Screenplay by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox,Screen story by Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein, Based on the book How to be Single by Liz Tuccillo

Studio: Warner Bros.

Run Time: 1 hour 50 minutes

Sarah Knight Adamson © February 12, 2016