'How to be Single' Review: Shabby and shallow

It’s Sex and the City, except that the sex is scant and lousy, and the city is one humdrum drab.

It is quite obvious that Christopher Ditter’s How to be Single takes its cue from the now-legendary grooves of HBO’s female-driven series. Liz Tuccillo, whose book of the same title serves as the source material for the film, wrote episodes for Sex and the City. Ditter and writers Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, and Dana Fox took the worn idea into the age of Tinder, hoping there’s something new to explore. 

There’s none.


Fifty shades of single

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Glamorous Carrie Bradshaw is replaced here by glum and gullible girl Alice Kepley (Dakota Johnson), the newly minted paralegal at a New York City law firm who quickly decided to temporarily break it off with her college boyfriend so that she can get to know herself better. She is quickly befriended by fellow paralegal Robin (Rebel Wilson), who shows her the way around the metropolis as a single lady who is more than ready to mingle. 

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Alice temporarily lives with her older sister Meg (Leslie Mann), a career-oriented doctor who swears off long-term relationships out of sheer cynicism. She eventually succumbs to the allure of motherhood, and gets herself pregnant with the sperm of a suitable donor.

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Elsewhere, wedding-obsessed Lucy (Alison Brie) is desperate to find a suitable mate in a city full of eligible bachelors who are only in it for fun but not for the commitment.

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How to be Single is just full of single people who are struggling with the sheer thought of being single, the entire thing is rendered monotonous and joyless. It indulges in pseudo-significant ramblings on the pleasures and miseries of life in between relationships, but never really surrenders to the idea of life without exclusive love. The film only pretends to champion independence, but in reality, it succumbs to formula, relying mostly on the thrills of the possibility of a romantic rapport.

Bite-sized affairs

How to be Single is simply a collection of truncated episodes of failed attempts to escape the curse of singlehood. Alice jumps from one man to another in what feels like a dizzying merry-go-round of bland flirty excesses.

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It would have been tolerable had the men been more than the standard-issue single stags that usually comes prepackaged in films that exploit female fantasies. 

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There is the smooth-talking bar owner (Anders Holm) whose numerous sexual conquests hide his veiled desire for companionship.

There is the single dad (Damon Wayans, Jr.) who seems perfect except that he overprotects his daughter. There is also the comely ex (Nicholas Braun) whose boy-next-door charm makes him the ideal one-who-got-away. 

The film’s other affairs are all hastily conceived bite-sized love stories that serve as distractions from Alice’s uninteresting thread. Meg is paired with an impossibly optimistic young man (Jake Lucy), while hopelessly romantic Lucy, whose scant connection with the film makes her storyline a needless nuisance, struggles with the possibility of never finding the guy who will match her mighty expectations. 

Peddling false hope

In other words, the film is designed not as an anthem for women who are perfectly okay with celebrating Valentine’s Day alone. 

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It peddles false hope in the guise of some hackneyed mumbo-jumbo about finding one’s soul if the lonely heart can’t find its rightful mate. It aspires to be this generation’s Sex and the City except that it does not require much soulless extravagance to showcase how shallow it really is.

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All it needs are the indifferently recited raunchy remarks of Wilson’s character, who seems to be there only for the purpose of supplying adult humor in what essentially is a monotonous show, to signal how it is desolate of any real insight on the separate acts of loving and just stopping to care about love. – Rappler.com

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas’ Tirad Pass. Since then, he’s been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema. Profile photo by Fatcat Studios