Jacqueline Gualtieri ’18 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Think back to just about every rom-com you’ve ever seen. Most likely, the plot went something like this: boy meets girl, something gets in the way of their happiness, they overcome the obstacle and live happily ever. There’s nothing wrong with this formula if that’s your style. If you really love a happy love story, you probably leave the theater pretty satisfied.
But you, and everyone else, knows that life doesn’t really follow that same formula. How to Be Single answers the question of what happens when that formula gets messed up. Alice (Dakota Johnson) is happily in love with her college boyfriend, Josh (Nicholas Braun) but she puts an obstacle in her own way when she decides she needs a “break” so that she can go off on her own and discover who she is. If you keep track of the cliches, you can most likely mark that as number one. She gets a job in New York as a paralegal and meets her opposite, Robin (Rebel Wilson). Unlike Alice, Robin is not much of a “relationship girl”. She believes in sleeping with anyone she wants and trying as many drugs as she can. The character seems to come across a bit like Amy Schumer in Trainwreck, but the difference is that Schumer’s character was actually a bit endearing. Robin, on the other hand, is mostly just used for comedic relief, that is until the end when she suddenly becomes vulnerable. The switch is fairly believable, thanks to Wilson’s acting, but overall jarring since she demonstrates no emotional depth before the last twenty minutes of the film.
At the start of the film, Alice lives with her big sister before getting her own place. Meg (Leslie Mann), hands down the biggest cliche of the film, gets a pass because there is a point for her being the way that she is. Meg is a successful obstetrician who, within the first few minutes of the movie, is already addressing why she never had kids. Despite her excuses, it becomes obvious that she’s so career-oriented that she doesn’t do much dating and therefore ends up single and alone. In classic rom-com fashion, she eventually comes around and admits that she does want a child.
Despite the fact that it’s bothersome that a female character couldn’t just feel fulfilled with her career, Meg’s character is used to make the point that a woman can, in fact, “have it all”. There’s that age old question of whether a woman will choose between work and a career and in the end she has both. She lives with a partner who is more than happy to be the stay at home dad.
It’s a great concept, if it wasn’t so ridiculously done. An unfortunate side effect of Meg’s story is the manic pixie dream boy she ends up with. She just happens to have met a man who is thrilled to give up his job for a girl he’s only known for a few months to help raise a child that’s not even his. While one can appreciate the lesson the writers were trying to teach with Meg’s character, they fall short because of how hard it is to believe that her life managed to work out so perfectly.
The two characters who really stole the show are unfortunately cliches as well, but that fact is easy to ignore because of their talent and comedic abilities. Tom (Anders Holm) is just a playboy who doesn’t believe in falling in love…until he meets Lucy (Alison Brie), who is obsessed with finding the right man, to the point that she has developed algorithms to find him. She’s the girl who is planning every ounce of her wedding, but has no idea who the groom is yet. Brie and Holm’s chemistry is palpable and their relationship ends up in a way that’s poignant and realistic.
After counting the cliches, one has to wonder if maybe the writers meant for all of them to happen. Perhaps in trying to turn the stereotypes on their head, they got lost in the sauce. Making the main character a cliche herself is the film’s fatal mistake. From her opening narration to her closing catharsis, Alice is over the top relatable. She seems like she’s supposed to be the every girl. Save for one thought that she repeats throughout the movie, Alice doesn’t seem to have any characteristics. The movie does make the point of saying that she loses herself in relationships, but even when she is out of a relationships, she has virtually no personality and no other original thoughts save for the one that gets beaten to death. As a romantic comedy, How to Be Single is fairly refreshing. Although the film could have been better executed, it’s nice to see the formula get broken. The message of the movie is loud and clear: happiness comes from inside you and not a ring.
Overall Grade: C+
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