How To Be Single might be forgettable and formulaic chick-bait, but it’s also fun while it lasts.
The plot primarily focuses on Johnson’s goofy and sweet character, Alice. A twenty-something graduate who decides that she needs some time apart from her long-term college boyfriend, Alice kick-starts her journey of self-discovery by packing her bags and setting off in pursuit of an adventure in the ‘big city’. It’s pretty derivative stuff, right down to the Taylor Swift soundtrack, twinkling New York skyline and ham-fisted references to Friends and Sex in the City.
The characters themselves, particularly those played by Wilson and Brie, aren’t anything to write home about; they feel like well-worn caricatures whose attributes are plucked straight from ‘How To Write a Rom-Com For Beginners’. They lack the depth and defining features to set themselves apart from any other funky, playful American comedy from the last 20 years. For Brie this means being lumbered as the clucky thirty-something who will stop at nothing to get married, whilst Wilson is forced to wring the sassy best friend trope for all it’s worth.
Honestly, if it weren’t for the effervescent chemistry between the lead foursome, How To Be Single would be utterly lost at sea. Instead we find ourselves merrily swept up in a solid albeit derivative plot about dating, sex and relationships. It’s clichéd, but also pleasingly familiar and satisfying. Leading the charge is Johnson; she’s cute, dorky and genuinely funny, a feat that is particularly impressive when you consider just how flat and wooden her performance was in Fifty Shades of Grey.
Meanwhile, Wilson is in her element: if you’re not a fan already, you certainly won’t be afterwards, but for anyone who finds humour in Wilson’s rabble-rousing antics, you’ll be more than satisfied. The male cast are a mixed affair; on the one hand you have David (Damon Wayans Jnr), a kind-hearted single father whose arc provides some genuine depth and emotional weight to the film. On the flipside is Tom (Anders Holm), a chiselled and smarmy hunk who is less of character and more of a random collection of tired douchebag tropes. Lastly, even though he essentially played the exact same character in Sleeping With Other People, Jason Mantzoukas is a hoot as Lucy’s exuberant boyfriend George.
It may not stray from well-worn rom-com territory, but I did have a good time with this movie – definitely not in an artistic or intellectual sense, but purely in an entertainment one. The film won’t stick with you long after the credits have rolled, but it does what it does admirably. It gets in, keeps you entertained (or distracted) for just under two hours and leaves just as quickly. It’s the kind of film you see with a significant other or group of gal-pals if you’re looking for something unpretentious, inoffensive and straightforward.
The Verdict: 6/10
It’s by no means original, and the core messaging is a little lopsided, but on the whole this is a mildly diverting comedy with a talented cast that ticks all the boxes it needs to along the way.
How To Be Single is in cinemas across Australia now.