The 400-Word Review: How to Be Single
By Sean Collier
February 18, 2016
How To Be Single is very much a comedy with its heart in the right place. Its quartet of characters are well-rounded, real people who respond honestly to their troubles; other than a bit of indulgence in the fantasy of an affordable New York, it’s a movie that does take place in the real world. Most notably for an ensemble comedy, it does not reduce people to signifiers or archetypes.
It’s also not nearly funny enough. But it’s really kind, so that’s something?
Alice (Dakota Johnson, proving that she is indeed much better than Fifty Shades of Grey) decides that she needs a post-collegiate break from her white-bread boyfriend (Nicholas Braun). She moves in with her workaholic sister Meg (Leslie Mann), who is preparing for pregnancy via a sperm donor, and gets a paralegal gig that introduces her to party girl Robin (Rebel Wilson). Meg wants Alice to find herself; Robin wants Alice to find a wide variety of other men.
Meanwhile, Lucy (Alison Brie) is obsessed with finding a husband. She’s a near-permanent denizen of the bar below her apartment (just for the free Wi-Fi) — which just happens to be run by a dashing, charming playboy (Anders Holm).
I have to note that a key plot flaw in How To Be Single concerns this last storyline; for some reason, no one bothered to link Lucy’s story to that of the other women in a meaningful way, despite the fact that the film is generally presented as a “Sex and the City” style tale of four friends.
Other than that, though, the stories presented here are surprisingly mature. Meg in particular is a character rarely seen on the big screen: a woman entirely satisfied with her life and career, happy to have a child unassisted. (Of course, Meg eventually does get a love interest, but the important thing is that she’s not presented as in need of one.) Robin’s character bears surprising death and dignity for the nominal comic relief, and there’s a lot of truth in Alice’s journey.
But it’s not very funny. It’s pleasant and eminently watchable. But while the four credited writers — including some of the screenwriters of Never Been Kissed and Valentine’s Day — on How To Be Single seem to know relationships, they don’t know laughs. That doesn’t mean that you need to avoid it, but there’s no reason to seek it out.
My Rating: 6/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark