‘How to Be Single’ is a primer on the good and the bad of rom-coms

Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson in ‘How to Be Single’

“I thought it would be funny” – Rebel Wilson as “Robin”

Based on the debut novel from Liz Tuccillo, How to Be Single is a rom-com that has some very strong moments.  Some very weak moments.  And sadly, the weak outweigh the strong.  That doesn’t mean it was bad, because there are a lot of laughs to be had.  It is just sad that what could have been real cutting edge exposure of some of the negatives of the formulaic elements of the genre failed in that respect.

“Alice” (Dakota Johnson) has been with her boyfriend “Josh” (Nicholas Braun) throughout her time in college and then she insisted they take a “break” when she goes off to New York City to take a job as a paralegal.  She winds up working at a desk next to “Robin” (Rebel Wilson) who considers herself to be *the* expert in how to be a single woman in the big city.  It is an interesting pairing.

“Lucy” (Brie Larson) moves into an apartment where the free wi-fi is just out of reach.  So she goes to the source of that wi-fi, Tom’s Bar, across the street.  “Tom” (Anders Holm) has also made being single a science and he’s taken aback a bit by Lucy’s search for Mr. Right through every dating site on the internet.  He’s only interested in Miss Right for the Night.

“Meg” (Leslie Mann) is Alice’s sister, a busy OB/Gyn in the city who provides Alice with a temporary home.  She has been completely career focused for a long time, then suddenly decides she wants to conceive her own child using a sperm donor.

Leslie Mann in ‘How to Be Single’

While the film is focused on the subject of how to be a single woman, you can’t deal with that issue without having some men.  After Alice tries to get back with Josh and finds out he is seeing someone else, she winds up meeting “David” (Damon Wayans, Jr.).  That goes well for a while but ends badly.  Lucy has her own string of really awful dates and then meets “Paul” (Colin Joust) with whom she enjoys a wonderful relationship.  Until he dumps her.  She has a major meltdown and winds up being comforted by “George” (Jason Mantzoukas).  Meg meets “Ken” (Jake Lacy), a younger guy.  Tom comes to the conclusion that Lucy is the one for him, but she’s with George.  Then Robin does something unthinkable to Alice at Alice’s birthday party.  Completely confused yet?

There are moments in this movie that offer true insight into the reality of being single.  There are also moments where this film could be labeled “How Not to Make a Rom-Com.”  The problem being that the latter moments far outweigh the former moments.  In previous movies Rebel Wilson straddles the line between funny and annoying quite well but not here.  Perhaps the fact her character was constructed being completely devoid of a single redeeming feature is part of the problem.  The other lead women are just fine in what are roles that limit their abilities.  The men are mere objects, there to provide context for the romances of the ladies.

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