How-To-Be-Single-Review

Oftentimes, one is the best number. How to Be Single, the first American wide release for German filmmaker Christian Ditter opens in wide release today. Its blend of episodic storytelling and romantic comedy trope denial starts promising but tires itself out way too quickly.

Alice (Dakota Johnson) is newly single after taking a “break” from her boyfriend to begin her post-college life as a paralegal in New York. On her first day, she forms a bond with her coworker Robin (Rebel Wilson), a fast-living partier who insists on teaching Alice her own philosophy on the single life.

On their first night out, Alice hooks up with Tom (Anders Holm), a bartender who has his own perfectly brewed system for staying single and not having any commitments. Tom’s frequent customer Lucy (Alison Brie) is quite the opposite as she uses Tom’s bar’s WiFi to perfect her online dating algorithm to meet the perfect guy.

Adding to the parade of characters is Alice’s sister (Leslie Mann), a doctor with whom Alice stays and who has focused too much on her career to have ever found a real love life. This main quintet of characters come in and out of each other’s lives as the film unfolds in a continuing series of short episodes that ultimately add up to…

Well, not much. How to be Single becomes an unwieldy and monotonous mess as each episode unfolds. The stories never find any cohesive traction and while they’re not explicitly separated by something as definitive as a title card, they don’t really interact with other stories as the film unfolds, almost as little as some of the characters interact.

While it’s an interesting way to construct a film like this, it just doesn’t work. Having the same group of characters move towards what should feel like a typical dramatic arc and have that undermined continually while the film resets itself and moves to its next story in a pseudo-serialized fashion is often frustrating and never allows the film to find any traction.

The film is further undercut by its continual insistence that it isn’t going to be a typical romantic film and its almost religious denial of every potential rom-com trope out there. It’s fine to be the anti-romantic comedy, but I’d prefer to see that shown rather than shouted out us through voiceover or through several characters’ almost cult-like devotion to all the glories of being single.

There’s enough there to save it from being a complete misfire. Wilson is in her wheelhouse here as an epically confident lover of the single life who adds a good bit of comedic bombast to the proceedings. Johnson continues to show that she has the makeup of a potential comedic lead for years to come – she just needs something that gives her a little bit more to do than get trapped in between a whirlwind of various single philosophies being spouted at her.

How to be Single shows that films are far more effective when there’s a single purpose and story. Its undone by its continual moves in and out of near-short stories that never give the film a real dramatic question to answer in its resolution and thus sets itself up to be unsatisfying.

Just like most bad relationships.