Ever since Bridesmaids was released in 2011, every female-driven rom-com has had to deliver an extra helping of raunchy humour. No more cute boy-meets-girl love stories, we want gross one-liners and foul-mouthed leads expelling all-manner of bodily fluids. The problem is, with everything from Pitch Perfect to Trainwreck pulling the same trick, any new release needs to have a unique insight into the sticky world of modern dating. And that’s precisely what’s wrong with How to be Single: peel away the gross-out gags and you’ll find the same-old, tired cliches.
Having dumped her adorable boyfriend as part of an Eat. Pray. Love mission to find herself, Alice (Dakota Johnson) follows in the footsteps of every 20-something looking for adventure by heading to New York to live, live, live. Once there she’s pulled under the wing of Rebel Wilson’s sexed-up party girl who schools her in the art of scoring free drinks and hot guys in the era of Tinder, one-night-stands and booty calls.
This zippy comedy based on Liz Tuccillo’s book does tap into some modern dating dilemmas – most effectively, why would anyone choose to settle for one person when someone better could be just a finger-swipe away? But all too often the core message gets tangled in an overcrowded plot that isn’t sure where the hell it’s going. Alice might insist she wants to be single, but she spends all her time either pining for her ex or ricochetting between disastrous flings with a bunch of guys who never stick around long enough to make a lasting impact.
It’s the same story for the girls, who are little more than archetypes ripped from the pages of Tuccillo’s own Sex and the City scripts. There’s the pensive heroine, a Carrie Bradshaw-esque figure played by an endearing Johnson. Then there’s the sexually confidant party girl (Wilson), who clearly recalls Samantha only without the paranoia about her age. Then there’s Lucy (Alison Brie), a tech-savvy control freak who will surely appeal to all those Charlotte fans out there. Meanwhile, Leslie Mann’s broody older sister shares Miranda’s career ambitions as well as her secret desire to have a baby. Only Rebel Wilson comes out of this with any credit, her biting asides providing the film’s only source of sure-fire laughs and it’s no surprise the energy dips during her character’s lengthy absences from the screen. Far from the how-to guide its title suggests, How to be Single lacks the focus to really connect with its target audience, but it will at least make them laugh once in a while.
Runtime: 110 mins; Genre: Rom-Com; Released: 19 February 2016
Director: Christian Ditter; Writers: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, Dana Fox;
Cast: Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann