Film Review | How To Be Single is a Modern Rom-Com with a Traditional Tale

The once mighty rom-com genre, it’s fair to say, has been in a state of flux recently. The Sandra Bullock/Hugh Grant/Matthew McConaughey vehicles of yore seem like bizarre memories from a pre- tinder, cultural fever dream and the formula they’d laid out no longer seems to guarantee box office returns. Nowadays a rom-com is more likely to be a smaller, critical darling like Obvious Child or Results; movies at home in the arthouse.

How To Be Single is in Cinemas on February 19th -
How To Be Single is in Cinemas on February 19th Source

How To Be Single is an attempt to forge a new path but also return the genre to its place at the multiplex. It has an enjoyable, glossy sheen to it, being an archetypal tale of a gal moving to the big city. It differentiates itself from your Grandad’s rom-coms by saying, up front, that this is about being single, not about finding ‘the one’. It may as well be called ‘How to be a Romantic Comedy in 2016’. In some sense it comes across as being just as daunted as its protagonist when navigating this new world.

We follow Dakota Johnson’s Alice into the wonderland (nudge) of New York. She’s on a break (her idea) from her long term boyfriend and soon meets a cast of characters including Rebel Wilson’s party chick, Anders Holm’s charming playa and Alison Brie’s marriage obsessed spreadsheet aficionado. Along the way Leslie Mann also gets IVF and Damon Wayans is a single father who’s dating again. You can’t shake the feeling that the writers were trying to tackle all aspects of the modern dating game but if this all sounds studiously now, don’t worry. It’s still a story where a man can undo a pretty clear breakup by turning up on the woman’s doorstep, unannounced, with a Christmas tree.
There are messy stretches here that feel as unfocused as falling down a tunnel of buzzfeed articles. With a sprawling, neo-John Hughes script, the weight of the film falls on the cast’s shoulders. It’s lucky that they’re as charming as they are. Alice is fine as your typical shrinking violet blossoming into a mimosa drinking city mouse but most of the laughs are generated from the nominal supporting players. The promotional material leans heavily on Rebel Wilson’s foul mouthed singleton for good reason. She’s the funniest (and, at times, most overused) thing here. Alison Brie and Jake Lacy also pass the time nicely. The characterisation is very much people monologuing their viewpoint when introduced with speeches that may as well end with ‘And I’ll never change or learn a thing, no way’. It’s testament to how watchable everyone is that you won’t mind that stuff.
There’s an enjoyable, escapist glamour to all this and it’s populated by talented, pretty people. It struggles with its own genre and often works best as a straight up comedy. This never quite steps out of the shadow of its influences but you’ll laugh enough to forget the bad times.
How To Be Single is in cinemas on Friday 19th February. Check out the trailer below.
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