A rom-com aimed at the Girls demographic, How to be Single is firmly and often satisfyingly female-oriented. The loose adaptation of Liz Tuccillo’s best-selling novel of the same name has a generous amount of humour about male and female anatomy, cautionary advice to women about what men really want, an acknowledgement of the whims of the female body, and enough hay-rolling to offset its recommendation that women are better off on their own.
Alice arrives in New York City on a break from her boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) to assess her chances at being single. Since Alice is played by Dakota Johnson, she has no problems attracting attention, especially since she has the potty-mouthed encouragement of serial single woman Robin (Rebel Wilson). Alice’s romantic and sexual adventures are intertwined with the tale of Meg (Leslie Mann), her older sister¸ who becomes a single mother just when she has caught of the eye of a younger man (Jake Lacy). The weakest of the four characters is Michelle (Sarah Ramos), who has an on-off thing with Tom (Anders Holm), the dishy owner of the bar she haunts in the hope of finding The One.
Tom has one of the movie’s best sequences, in which he explains to Alice after a one-night stand (long-term love is the only thing in short supply in this corner of New York City) that he has made his apartment absolutely attachment-proof for women who might want to stay for longer than permitted.
The episodic screenplay barely hangs together, and many of the characters are poorly fleshed out. But the performances are strong, particularly by Johnson, Mann and Wilson, some of the observations on the battle of the sexes are acute, and the intimate camerawork brings us closer to the characters, particularly Alice, than we usually would. The message that women don’t need men to feel complete is delivered within the restrictions of the genre and over the shoulders of one of the most beautiful women in New York City.
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