15 – 110mins – 2016
ID4 – INDEPENDENCE DATE
Adapted from the 2008 debut novel by Sex and the City screenwriter Liz Tuccillo, this femme-focused guidebook on how to survive the harsh and often loveless perils of the modern dating game is in a similar vein to star-heavy relationship comedy She’s Just Not That Into You (2009).
Although sunny in nature and released in time for Valentine’s Day, this isn’t a cutesy rom-com for the hearts ‘n’ flowers brigade, or for the uber-sensitive recently heartbroken. No, How To Be Single subverts romantic traditions in a way that will best appeal to battle-hardened independent twenty-first century woman who aren’t offended watching beautiful rich New Yorkers “struggle” to find a partner.
Fifty Shades breakthrough star Dakota Johnson plays recently-graduated Alice, who spontaneously demands a break from her loving boyfriend of four years (Nicholas Braun), simply for the “experience” of single life. Community cutie Alison Brie is uptight love-hunter Lucy, desperate to find “the one” via strategic online dating. Rebel Pitch Perfect Wilson’s Robin just wants fun, fun, fun rather than any form of commitment, while Leslie Mann plays Alice’s big sister, the career-driven Meg who has no time for a partner or family in her busy life – or does she…?
The “modern” attitudes of many of the characters – including secondary players such as Damon Wayans Jr’s single dad David – infuriated me for their bafflingly selfish decisions and continued self-destructiveness, while the ensemble nature of the plot does occasionally lead to a patchy story. For instance, Lucy’s only connection to Alice’s meatier lead story is that she uses the wi-fi in the same bar, therefore great stretches pass where Lucy isn’t present. She is then crowbarred into Alice’s climatic birthday party (not quite sure how she wangled an invite considering they are effectively strangers) simply to give bachelor barman Tom (Anders Holm) a convenient stage on which to make a bold proposal.
The passage of time is also surprisingly swift, to cover Meg’s IVF pregnancy in full, but this does give the film a flighty tone, with time marked by the celebrating of public holidays, just to make it crystal clear (Christmas! St Patrick’s Day!). The decision to skip ahead three months in the middle of the film was a bizarre move, however, only really explained away in the almost out-of-character subsequent scene which came like a bolt out of the blue.
For all of my grievances, however, the film is buoyed by a terrifically fresh and enthusiastic cast who do perfectly encapsulate their roles, and there are giggles to be had, even if Alice isn’t technically learning how to be single for much of the runtime. But then How to Party, Bed-Hop and Make Random, Stupid Decisions does not a piffy title make. The climax is reached on a surprisingly pro-independent note, however, and I was pleased that not every character lived happily ever after. Told you it was subversive!