Posted February 24, 2016
By SOPHIE BRAGA DE BARROS
‘Tis the season for cheesy romantic comedies and naïve audiences that want to live an unrealistic love story. Valentine’s season is upon us and, with it, came the romantic comedy “How to be Single,” starring Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson and Leslie Mann.
The movie follows the life of Alice (Johnson) after she takes a break from a long-term relationship to explore life as a single woman. With the help of her eccentric co-worker Robin (Wilson), Alice attempts to enter the dating scene and let go of her past relationship.
“How to be Single” was directed by Chris Ditter, who has worked with other romantic comedies in the past, such as “Love, Rosie” and “French for Beginners.” The production team included none other than Drew Barrymore, who has a varied repertoire but was also responsible for producing “Never Been Kissed,” a classic in the world of rom-coms, but nonetheless a common cheesy chick-flick.
“How to be Single” follows the same pattern: a romantic comedy that is enjoyable to watch, but will neither be memorable nor have special meaning.
First, let us talk about Johnson. After reaching what is probably the peak of her fame by playing the innocent-turned-promiscuous Anastasia in “50 Shades of Grey,” you would expect a top-notch performance. Wrong. Johnson delivers awkward acting skills and is caught in the same general plot of a naïve girl who changes herself to get out there into the dating world.
Sound familiar? While Johnson is the “star” of the plot, she does not seem to go the extra mile and shows us a superficial Alice.
Wilson, on the other hand, seems to be too much for the movie. After her work in successful comedies like “Bridesmaids” and “Pitch Perfect,” “How to be Single” seems to restrict the actress and strip her of her comedic potential. While Wilson leaves us with a feeling of “been there, done that,” her obnoxiously funny jokes still account for a good portion of the movie’s humor.
In terms of comedic acting, Leslie Mann comes to viewers as a pleasant surprise, as she seems to dominate in moments where the theater audience either chuckled or nearly cried from laughter. Mann, who plays the workaholic nurse Meg, succeeds at showing us the different sides of her character, who struggles to balance work and the desire to be a mother. Her challenges result in comedic scenes that can also reach the audience in a more personal level.
Alongside Mann’s performance, “How to be Single” comes with other positive twists. After being exposed to various predictable romantic comedies, where the girl struggling to find love gets everything she ever wanted, and the guy who is a player changes his lifestyle because he meets a “different” girl, “How to be Single,” provides viewers with a refreshing story line.
While realism is generally not the movie’s forte, it should be noted that, within smaller scenes, it succeeds in presenting us with snapshots of real life. We get a sense of the single mom who tries to find romance with a younger guy, and we gain perspective into today’s hookup culture.
Also a positive feature, generally speaking, is the movie’s photography. No, it was not outstanding and completely out of the ordinary, but there are scenes that succeed in immersing the audience in the beauty of New York City. Though they constituted a minimal portion of the movie itself, the Grand Canyon scenes are completely breath taking. But then again, it is very hard to mess up footage of the Grand Canyon; it will look beautiful regardless because it is a naturally gorgeous place. Despite some instances of shaky camera movement, sequences had a good flow and enhanced the plot line.
Overall, “How to be Single” is a solid movie to watch if you are single on Valentine’s Day and want to be reassured that you are an incredible independent woman, or if you just want a good laugh because Wilson’s and Mann’s jokes are actually funny.
While it is not the worst romantic comedy out there, the plot is annoyingly unrealistic at times and character development generally lacks. But why try to figure out how crazy Robin got a job in a serious law firm and manages to keep it, despite her lack of work and effort? And why question Alice’s reckless desire to keep encountering her ex-boyfriend when she initiated the break in the first place?
At this point, you are just over-analyzing what is supposed to be a cute and funny Valentine’s Day movie, so buy some chocolate and enjoy “How to be Single” with your friends on a fun night out. Or wait until it is available on DVD.
- Title: “How to be Single”
- Release Date: Feb. 12, 2016
- Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
- Actors: Dakota Johnson (Alice), Rebel Wilson (Robin) and Leslie Mann (Meg)
- Run Time: 110 minutes
- Director: Christian Ditter
- MPAA Rating: R
- Rating: 3 out of 5 stars