Ref Max’s “How to be Single” Review: A Bloated Mess
Even though Christian Ditter’s How to be Single offers several hilarious moments and scenes, it suffers from distracting set pieces, forced melodrama, and a bloated runtime.
How to be Single stars: Dakota Johnson (“50 Shades of Grey”), Rebel Wilson (“Pitch Perfect”), Leslie Mann (“Knocked Up”), Alison Brie (“Get Hard”), Damon Wayans Jr. (“Let’s Be Cops”), and Anders Holm (“The Intern”). While none of these actors or actresses give great performances, there are several moments where their comedic timing is perfect for the raunchy dialogue written by Abby Kohn and Marc Silverstein (“Never Been Kissed,” “Valentine’s Day,” “The Vow,” “He’s Just Not That Into You”), and Dana Fox (“Couples Retreat,” “The Wedding Date,” “What Happens in Vegas”).
Most of this film’s laughs come from Rebel Wilson’s Robin and Anders Holm’s Tom. Both Robin and Tom are deliberately single individuals that engage in various sexual activities and get wasted on a regular basis. If you expect any more or less from these characters than the caricatures that they are, you will be sorely disappointed. Yet, How to be Single is at its best when Wilson or Holm say something wildly inappropriate in a swift manner. For example, the funniest moment in How to be Single occurs when Robin and the protagonist, Alice, portrayed by Dakota Johnson, go to a spa and discuss body hair in a frank and unforgettable manner. One of the other funniest moments occurs when Tom explains how his entire apartment room is geared towards ensuring that he stays single: The lengths to which Tom relationship-proofs his house is truly interesting and unique.
In spite of these strong moments, there are several flaws that prevent this film from being as enjoyable or meaningful as it wants to be. One of these flaws includes the fact that several of the set pieces look cheap and fake. This is most evident when Dakota Johnson’s Alice rides into New York in a car on a bridge with a skyline, all of which looks unconvincing. This is even more noticeable because Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” blares in the background during this scene. Also, there is a scene where Alice sits on the fire escape of her apartment building and everything around her looks staged. Due to the low-budget look of these set pieces, the audience is unable to engage in several of these scenes. One of the best examples of this is during the final scene of the film in which Dakota Johnson’s character visits a place with scenery that should be breathtaking, but thanks to the poor direction and lazy set piece, there is nothing impressive or grand about the closing scene of this film.
How to be Single is also plagued by forced melodrama. The plot revolves around Alice, Robin, Lucy, Meg, Tom and David all learning “how to be single in a world filled with ever-evolving definitions of love.” At least that is what the plot synopsis on IMDb indicates. However, there is only one character that actually learns how to be single throughout this film, Alice. In other words, many of the subplots of this film, which deal with the various relationships and misadventures or Robin, Lucy, Meg, Tom, and David, could all have been cut. With this in mind, the fact that this film is a series of relationships beginning and ending abruptly is more unforgiveable. Nearly every relationship that is in How to be Single begins in a few scenes or less, and after a time jump, a major argument or disagreement happens. Pervasively, audiences are forced to watch the beginning of a relationship and rushed into how it ends, which is jarring and prevents any of the this film’s dramatic aspects from working.
In particular, the relationship between David and Alice is established through two scenes, but after a three month jump the audience is thrust into a fight that comes out of nowhere. Alice sings a song to David’s daughter that makes him so upset he tells Alice not to try to be her mother and breaks up with her. Given that the audience does not find out that David’s wife died while their daughter was young, a fact that the audience does not even learn until the midst of the breakup, it is difficult to invest in this scene. It does not help that Daman Wayans Jr. is unable to convey the pain and suffering that David is supposed to be enduring. Because of all these factors, this storyline and its cloying sentimental bent, this relationship falls flat.
How to be Single is an adaptation of Liz Tuccillo’s 368 page novel. Even though this film is 110 minutes long, the lack of a coherent plot or purpose makes it feel like the runtime is actually 150 minutes long. This is only amplified by how the film changes tones in the final ten minutes and goes from being about a series of relationship beginnings and endings, friends partying, and a woman dating several men, to Alice going on her own journey and finding herself. For a more enjoyable experience with the same message and a more balanced tone, be sure to watch Taylor Swift’s Out of the Woods music video, which gets the same theme across in less than five minutes.
As a whole, How to be Single offers several hilarious moments, but lackluster set pieces, painfully forced melodrama, and a bloated runtime make it unworthy of paying to see in theaters.
How to be Single is 110 minutes long and R-rated for sexual content and language throughout.
Are you going to see How to be Single? If you have already seen it, did you agree or disagree with this review?