Buried deep inside How to Be Single there just may be a good, or at least watchable, movie. But, as is, this movie is a clunky mess. How to Be Single lacks focus and suffers from an all around lack of energy.
The problems emerge from the get go and never disappear. Perhaps the biggest flaw is that it is never clear which character we, the unsuspecting audience, are supposed to care about. The fact that Dakota Johnson’s Alice narrates the film leads one to believe she is the anchor. A heavy, iron anchor that shows little emotion or character development and drags the movie down to the darkest depths of the cinematic ocean. And just when you think we’re focusing on Alice and we’ll see some kind of plot trajectory, the film pivots. There are disjointed jumps to several other characters, including Alice’s sister Meg (Leslie Mann) and Lucy (Alison Brie), a character who garners nearly an equal amount of screen time as Alice despite the fact that the two characters have no tangible connection apart from frequenting the same bar. Flitting about are various suitors who seem to be significant but are then tossed aside just as quickly as they emerged.
The bright spot in this mess is Rebel Wilson’s Robin. Wilson is in familiar territory, that of comic sidekick, but she slays as she has in similar roles in better (and worse) films. How to Be Single’s Wilson-less stretches are fraught with a palpable lack of energy. A movie about Robin and her escapades, while it may not have been able to reach for the faux-touching territory How to Be Single aspires to, would have undoubtedly been a better movie.
Ultimately, Alice’s self-discovery - that it is actually ok to be single - is unconvincing. The film culminates with Alice’s voiceover expounding on the virtues of independence. Hardly convincing given that Alice spent the entire movie in various stages of dating, hooking up and pining for her ex.
So how do you make a better movie? Watch How to Be Single and then do the opposite.