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How To Be Single – Review


Release Date: 12 February 2016 [USA]
Director: Christian Ditter
Writer: Abby Kohn - Marc Silverstein - Dana Fox [Screenplay] - Abby Kohn - Marc Silverstein [Screen Story] - Liz Tuccillo [Novel]
Cast: Dakota Johnson - Rebel Wilson - Leslie Mann



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Posted February 19, 2016 by

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How To Be Single Review:

In a landscape that offers Fifty Shades of Black and Ride Along 2 as its romcom options, How to Be Single is Citizen Kane-like. That may be more of a commentary on the typical Hollywood mid-Winter fare than on Christian Ditter’s latest journey amid the adorable humiliations of young people in love, but HTBS does offer enough really good material to make it a fun romp on a cold day.

As he did in last year’s Love, Rosie, Ditter shows a great affinity for finding engaging 20-somethings and putting them through groan-inducing predicaments in a most agreeable manner. Here, we get Dakota Johnson as Alice, freshly-minted college grad who wants to live on her own for a while before deciding whether to settle down with long-time boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun). So she comes to NYC where she meets never-go-home party girl Robin (Rebel Wilson) and assorted red-blooded heterosexual partners for experimentation and adventure. Hanging off of Alice’s central storyline, we get subplots involving, among others, Anders Holm, Leslie Mann, Alison Brie, Jake Lacy, and Damon Wayans Jr.

This is a strong cast, and Ditter knows how to use them. Holm, who was badly miscast as the former high-powered business-type in 2015’s The Intern, is ideal for the hot, commitment-phobic bartender Tom. Brie is equally perfect as the brittle Lucy, who has devised sophisticated algorithms to find a future husband. Wayans has never been more touching than he is as widower David. As for Lacy and Mann – well, whoever cast them as the romantic couple Ken and Meg deserves some kind of honorary Oscar. I’d watch them together in another movie, a TV show, or an infomercial. They are romcom bliss.

How to be Single’s three screenwriters have filled it with many smart and funny moments. The best thing about the screenplay, though, is that it does not succumb to the cheap romcom cliché of vilifying the leads’ romantic rivals. This was one of the things that marred Love, Rosie and it is as old as time. We like our main characters and so in order to make sure they end up together, we have to see the other suitors as jerks and losers. But HTBS is honest enough to know that life doesn’t always work out like a romcom. Its resolutions to its multiple plotlines are about as smart as any I have seen in an ensemble story.

This is not to say that everything is perfect. The story, which jumps around in time and watches a lot of characters, can seem choppy. Characters disappear for too long in places and it can be hard to stay involved in all the stories. The problem here is not as egregious as it was in, say, 2015’s Love the Coopers (also featuring Jake Lacy), but since a similar issue did affect Love Rosie, it may be that rhythm and pacing are not Ditter’s strongest suits at this point.

And though she is clearly the funniest character in the movie, Rebel Wilson’s Robin is an awkward fit. This has little to do with Wilson’s performance, which is exactly what we have come to expect from her. And it should not suggest that Robin is not an engaging and fun character. She is. But I couldn’t help feeling that she comes from a different movie. HTBS is essentially a realistically-grounded comedy. Robin is from a farce. For instance, there is no way this character holds a job in a NYC law firm. That may not bother you as a viewer, but I couldn’t get past how improbable she is.

Those are minor issues which do little to distract from the movie’s good points. However, there is one other thing that will keep HTBS lower on my list than it ought to be. And this I refer to as the Avocado Issue.

I know a lot of people love the avocado. But not me. I can’t stand it. To me, it’s like filling your mouth with soft green spackle. I make no value judgements here. This is purely a matter of personal taste.

For me, the avocado in HTBS is its soundtrack.

I admit I am not in touch with what passes for modern dance music. And since a great deal of HTBS is set in clubs and at parties, modern dance tunes blast continually from the speakers. I may not have loved the music in movies like Saturday Night Fever or 24 Hour Party People, but it never bothered me the way this pounding a-melodic cacophony does. Even the non-diegetic incidental music takes on the screechy tone we get in the club.

So, in case I wasn’t clear, I didn’t like the music.

But that’s the nature of the avocado. It may not be a problem for you. And you may be able to sit back and enjoy a smart and funny romcom with a strong young cast. After all, even Citizen Kane had that painful opera that Susan Alexander Kane tortured us with for a while.


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Jonathan Eig
Huffington Post
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