Commonly ridiculed for their silliness and unrealistic expectations of love, romantic comedies remain appealing because of their simplicity, fun characters and down to earth themes that are not always far from certain truths. “How to Be Single” follows the stories of several New Yorkers who have experienced love through different walks of life and are on the search to define love in an age of evolving definitions on the subject. Suffice to say, the film prompts a few laughs and holds strong thematic elements but lacks fluidity, strong delivery and is, overall, underwhelming.
The film starts out with a whimsical meet cute between Alice (Dakota Johnson) and Josh (Nicholas Braun) and quickly turns into something odd and unnatural. Four years later, Alice decides to venture off on her own, with no prelude or insight on the matter, because she wants to experience independence and what it’s like to be single. She then meets Robin (Rebel Wilson) at the law firm she works for and Robin takes Alice under her wing, teaching her how to let loose and live life.
Additional stories of side characters are played out – Alice’s sister Meg (Leslie Mann), who wants to have a baby sans man and Meg’s later and unexpected boyfriend Ken (Jake Lacy), Tom (Anders Holm), Alice’s occasional lover, Lucy (Alison Brie), a woman desperate for love and obsessed with finding it on the internet through algorithms, and Alice’s brief boyfriend David (Daymon Wayans Jr.), who hasn’t yet moved on from a past relationship. What this method usually entails is a vague link to the main character and disjointed storylines. The strongest side story, in relation to Alice, is that of her and her sister. Additionally, the depth of the characters is never fully realized through their scattered stories and the elements that divert the focus from the film’s subjects, such as montages and character exposition.
The film is bold in its attempt to portray strong thematic elements of independence and different forms of love and relationships. It also tries its hardest to depict feminism through the voice of modern western women, but comes off trying to make statements without heart. The story ventures off its rail through overdone montages, speaking rather than actioning the theme and reaching a finale through weak escalation. A few spectacles are contrived and the character delivery is lacking in gusto. Some characters, such as Robin, only serve the film in its comedic efforts.
“How to Be Single” is short of phenomenal, eliciting thoughtful themes only with the ingredients for greatness, not the recipe. The characters give the audience a glimpse into their thought processes and the reasons for their choices, but they are never fully understood and developed. It does, however, deserve salute for deviating from cliché endings.