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    How To Be Single [Download Now]

    ‘A breezy roundelay of sexual liberation and self-discovery’: Dakota Johnson, left, and Rebel Wilson in How to Be Single.
    how to be single

    Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson notch up winning performances in an unsentimental comedy celebrating the highs and lows of being on your own

    Dakota Johnson is our Mae West. She’s become a symbol of screen licentiousness whose very presence in a movie signals a certain type of “action”. She was thrust upon the world in Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Fifty Shades of Grey, playing a coquettish damsel experiencing a new type of love,

    a love that required rhinestone-studded paddles. Next she stole the show from Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes as a teen femme fatale in Luca Guadagnino’s A Bigger Splash, her character employing scandalously plunging neck-lines to yield eye-watering sartorial results.

    Now she comfortably carries Christian Ditter’s How to Be Single, a breezy roundelay of sexual liberation and self-discovery set in Manhattan that bears more than a passing resemblance to Sex and the City (the good TV shows, not the bad movies). In this film,

    you want her to succeed. You want her to find happiness, which in this extremely rare case might not involve shacking up with some lantern-jawed hottie she dragged home from happy hour. She’s naturally doe-eyed, meaning her expressions of joy are dashed with melancholy, and her expressions of sadness are dashed with hope.

    The cloying extremes of sentimentalism never get a look in. There’s nothing in her body language that tells you what type of girl she is, and so she switches effortlessly between the flighty and the demure, sometimes in a single scene.

    She plays Alice, an inquisitive young woman who chooses to place her long-term relationship with darling Josh (Nicholas Braun) on ice in order to experience life in the big city and, possibly, the sensation of no-strings sex with copious anonymous partners. It takes just one new notch on the bedpost before she sees the error of her ways. But crawling back to darling Josh is futile, because he’s already chosen to sow some wild oats of his own.

    Luckily, Alice is desk-buddies with Rebel Wilson’s Robin, a championship party girl who makes sure that Alice is either drunk, dancing, talking to a man, or all three simultaneously. Wilson is a one-woman firestorm in this film. She is given the lion’s share of the zingers,

    and her hit rate is stupendous. She’s especially good at riffing on the cumulative downsides of overlong pubic hair.

    In between the cocktail marathons, Alice lodges with her sister, Meg (Leslie Mann), a highly strung midwife who decides she wants a baby without the rigmarole of securing a life partner. There’s a beautiful scene where Meg announces to Alice she wants to get pregnant with frozen sperm sourced from the internet,

    and the ensuing repartee between the two is immaculately spot-on. You believe they’re sisters, despite their looking and sounding completely different. Ahh, the magic of cinema…

    The screenplay by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox is satisfyingly nonjudgmental, framing the women’s escapades as natural and healthy, and all their decisions as having relative positives and negatives. Plus, the male characters, while very much secondary, are as sensitively wrought as the female heroes. Recourse to crass stereotyping and pseudo-moralising is a no-no, and while this may seem like a small victory in the scheme of things, it’s a vital one.

    Maybe you could accuse the film of being scattershot or episodic, but its piecemeal structure is key to its virtues. Instead of pummelling a single issue to death with sketch-like variations on a theme, the film manages to take on a wide range of themes and subjects, including the difficulty of self-sufficiency, realising when you want children,

    accepting the emotional baggage of others, sex as a cure for loneliness, and the fact that even our closest friends may remain entirely unknowable to us. The film doesn’t reinvent any wheels, and it doesn’t try to. But it hits a lot of small, important notes dead on, which helps How to Be Single rise above the rabble.

    What gives it a real edge, however, is that it’s one of those rare films that endorses the status of being single. It says, maybe there is satisfaction to be gleaned from locations that aren’t inside a guy’s cargo pants. It would be rude to give the film’s ending away, but it’s a quietly radical gesture that celebrates independence without implying that we should all become cave-dwelling hermits who live off foraged roots and rainwater.

    It’s not a happy ending. It’s not a sad ending. But it’s a great ending, one that hinges on the mystery of looking deep into Dakota Johnson’s eyes and attempting to read her thoughts and predict her future.

    Think of “How to Be Single” as a cinematic Whitman’s Sampler: There are enough pieces that work to offset the pieces that don’t. And “pieces” really is the key word here, because this romantic comedy about the dating adventures of young people in the big city feels like it consists of several bits scattered about and then loosely tied together.

    Cohesively, it’s just a snip or two away from those insipid Garry Marshall ensemble comedies that come out around various holidays. (And on this Valentine’s Day, it’s certainly preferable to his 2010 film “Valentine’s Day.”) One subplot here seems so disconnected from all the others, it could have been eliminated entirely and not made much of a difference to the central story.

    From a tonal perspective, though, director Christian Ditter pulls off a pretty tricky feat in balancing the film’s pervasive bawdiness with moments of real substance and heart. And he’s got such a winning cast—including Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Leslie Mann, Jake Lacy, Damon Wayans Jr. and Anders Holm—that the whole experience ends up being way more enjoyable than you might expect.

    Loosely based on the novel by Liz Tuccillo, co-author of “He’s Just Not That Into You,” “How to Be Single” follows several characters and their romantic entanglements—or their strenuous efforts to avoid them. At the start, we see Johnson’s character, sweet and shy Alice, insisting to her longtime boyfriend at Wesleyan, Josh (Nicholas Braun), that they should see what it’s like to date other people before settling comfortably into a lifetime of monogamy together.

    Then it’s off to that hotbed of singledom known as New York City, where Alice accepts a job as a paralegal at a prestigious law firm and quickly sparks up a friendship with the brashly confident and unapologetically promiscuous Robin (Rebel Wilson), who takes Alice under her wing and teaches her … how to be single. Hence the title. This means random, late-night hookups with Tom (Anders Holm), the flirty party boy who owns the local bar, but also the possibility of something more substantial with handsome and successful single dad David (Damon Wayans Jr.), whom she meets at an alumni mixer.

    One of the best parts of the script from Abby Kohn & Marc Silverstein (“He’s Just Not That Into You”) and Dana Fox (“Couples Retreat”)—although those previous films theoretically wouldn’t provide much cause for optimism—is the way that it judges none of the characters for their sexual choices. Robin, who proudly proclaims that her apartment is just a place where she goes to shower in the morning after staying out all night, is having the best time of everyone in this movie—and everyone in Manhattan, for that matter. And, not to give away how any of these story lines turn out, it’s rather refreshing to find that not everyone ends up coupled up and happy. Some end up alone—and happy. There are actual permutations and unpredictable outcomes here.

    Also in the mix are Alice’s sister, Meg (Leslie Mann), a fiercely independent obstetrician who insists she doesn’t want a baby of her own—until she does—and the adorably goofy Ken (Jake Lacy), with whom she’s reluctant to get involved because he’s so much younger. (And if you’re keeping score at home, yes, it’s a bit distracting that Johnson and Mann are 17 years apart but they’re supposed to be sisters; having said that, the two actresses also share several scenes together that radiate real warmth and tenderness.)

    Which brings us to the one piece that doesn’t really fit: a subplot involving Alison Brie as Lucy, who’s scientifically broken down all the online dating services in hopes of marrying the perfect man. She’s sort of a preppy, Type A-cliché, which is intentional—and which is supposed to make her potential romantic connection with Tom such a surprise. (Her entire existence in his bar, which is directly beneath her apartment, consists of using it for free Wi-Fi and meeting bad blind dates there.) The fact that Brie makes this crazy-eyed character tolerable is a testament to the likability of her presence. But there’s really nothing that ties her to the rest of the narrative, which renders her a bit of an afterthought.

    When Lucy shows up at Alice’s rooftop birthday party with yet another would-be soul mate (Jason Mantzoukas, enjoyably odd as always), it’s like: How does she even know Alice? They’ve never had a single conversation. Did everybody who hangs out at the bar get an Evite? That’s the tough part, though, of telling a story with an ensemble cast and giving everyone time to shine. It would have been lovely to see more of Wayans Jr., as well—although he gets one brief scene toward the absolute end that’s just devastating. (You will sob. And it’s earned.).

    how to be single trailer

    How to Be Single’ Review: A Surprisingly Successful Blend of Heart and Humor

    how to be single
    When you’ve got a romantic comedy starring Rebel Wilson called How to Be Single hitting theaters for Valentine’s Day, it’s tough not to make assumptions about the content and quality of the movie. However, director Christian Ditter actually manages to deliver a film that both embraces 
    and subverts genre tropes, keeping the film firmly afloat through narrative highs and lows, and also leaving you with something to think about after it wraps up.
    Dakota Johnson leads as Alice. She meets a great guy named Josh (Nicholas Braun) in college, but just before they graduate she decides that it’s best for the two of them to
     spend some time apart and experience being single for a while. She heads into Manhattan to stay with her sister Meg (Leslie Mann) and take a job at a law firm, and that’s where she meets Wilson’s character, Robin, a non-stop tornado of highly
     inappropriate behavior and drunken tirades who takes it upon herself to teach Alice a thing or two about appreciating and enjoying her single status.
    how to be single
    Image via WB

    Some may look at Fifty Shades of Gray as a blemish on Johnson’s resume, but she still delivered a solid performance in that and continues to prove she can carry a movie in How to Be Single. She instantly establishes Alice as a highly likable girl next door-type, but one with more than enough nuance to make her feel like a human being and not just an archetype. It’s a blast to 
    watch her let loose and party alongside Robin, but then Johnson has no problem switching gears and highlighting the fact that Alice needs to get comfortable in her own skin before she can get comfortable in a relationship. The script doesn’t give that concept the screen time it deserves and the final 
    edit of the film feels as though it’s missing important beats of Alice’s transformation, but Johnson’s on-screen charm and magnetism fills enough of the holes.
    Wilson is one of few who nestles into her cookie-cutter character and doesn’t bother to take it any further. Robin is a crazy party animal with an extreme and unusual daily routine, and that’s about it. Towards the end of the film, Ditter uses Robin to shed some new light on Alice’s situation, but other than that, Wilson’s sole purpose for being in this film is to crack jokes. Quite a few are outright hilarious and some might even have you in tears,
     but we’re talking roughly one of every four jokes here. Wilson’s delivery and timing are always spot-on, but Robin comes across as a cartoon whereas Johnson and Mann’s characters embrace the comedy, but also feel like real people too.
    how to be single
    Image via Warner Bros.

    Meg is a successful doctor who’s delivered tons of babies over the years, but is too career-minded to want one of her own – until now. Again, Meg’s shift from not wanting a baby to wanting one is a bit abrupt, but Mann delivers the honest emotion to sell it. Mann also winds up hitting it big in the comedy department because her jokes are so well woven into her character’s situation. Whereas Wilson’s busy spitting out one one-liner after the next, Mann’s mishaps feel natural and wind up being some of the strongest for that reason. Not only does she have great chemistry with Johnson, but she also makes for a perfect pair with Jake Lacy. He steps in as Ken, one of Alice’s co-workers who falls for Meg at an office party. Meg is convinced it’s a fetish or one big joke because he’s much younger than her, but Ken is persistent and their back-and-forths are some of the most memorable moments of the film. (Keep an eye out for one especially well done scene that takes place in a baby shop.)
    Alison Brie’s character feels quite detached from the main narrative, but she still manages to make an impression. Lucy is obsessed with online dating, and particularly with an algorithm she’s come up with to assess her odds of finding “the one.” Brie shines in one of the film’s best scenes, one during which Lucy is reading to a group of kids, but overall it feels like something is missing or that the character came from a different film. In fact, there’s a party scene where it makes sense for Alice, Meg and Robin to be there, but Lucy’s presence makes you wonder if a scene was cut that connects her to the other characters.
    how to be single
    Image via Warner Bros.

    Another character that suffers from a weak arc that might have something to do with deleted scenes is David (Damon Wayans Jr.), one of Alice’s potential suitors. He does such a quick, nonsensical turnaround in such a short period of screen time that it’s a wonder Ditter or an editor didn’t stop to think, “We need another scene here.” How to Be Single has its fair share of flaws but this is the only one that completely takes you out of the movie because it’s so poorly executed.
    Other than that, How to Be Single is an above average romantic comedy that excels thanks to stellar performances and the fact that Ditter makes an effort to make it a very human story. That quality is in the messages the movie attempts to send and you can also see it in Ditter’s visuals as well. How to Be Single isn’t just littered with single shots that bounce from one character to the next in an effort to cover a conversation. There’s some real style to the camerawork that pulls you into the film and enhances the humor.
    Grade: B
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