Culture TV & Films

How To Be Single – Film Review

Last week I went to the European Premier of the new female led comedy How To Be Single. There was a pink carpet and instead of popcorn they gave us weird tasting pink chocolate (the chocolate wasn’t pink, just the wrapper). I don’t normally do in depth film reviews but I have a lot of things on my mind about this film.

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Before we really get into it I want to say that I really liked How To Be Single (HTBS). I was laughing so hard during it and I love all the actresses it in – Rebel Wilson, Dakota Johnson, Alison Brie and Leslie Mann – I think they’re all wonderful and so funny. I’m all for a female led comedy – Bridesmaids and Pitch Perfect are some of my favourite films and although this isn’t a blog about representation I will say that we need more comedies led by black women coming out of Hollywood please.

HTBS is about 4 single ladies in New York all finding their own ways to be single. I really like how it doesn’t treat being single as a stage in between relationships but as a state of being in its own right. And I think it’s great how they show different ways of  being single, that there’s no right way to do it. Although I will say it’s not really a film about “how to be single” it’s more a film of self-discovery.

Okay, so we’ve established that I liked the film. I definitely want to see it again so I can remember some of the quotes and use them in my actual real single life. But here’s the catch – it’s not a good film. And there are several reasons for this. Let’s talk about them.

Alison Brie’s character is completely redundant 

The character Lucy could have been cut entirely and it wouldn’t have changed the film at all. She is not part of the girl gang. She doesn’t become friends with any of them, she’s just chilling out in the sidelines with her own storyline. She doesn’t interact with any of the other characters except the character Tom and she’s basically used as a device for Tom’s character development. I did like the Lucy-Tom friendship though because I thought it was setting itself up to be a massive cliché and it wasn’t but her character was still pointless.

Does it even pass the Bechdel Test?

I am aware that passing the Bechdel Test doesn’t necessarily make a film “good” but you’d expect a comedy about being single with 4 female characters in it to pass with flying colours. It does pass (I think) but barely. When the girls aren’t talking about boys they’re talking about babies, sex, body hair, getting drunk etc… Wooo! Women! There’s obviously nothing wrong with talking about these things but we talk about other stuff too.

One dimensional characters

I know I said that all the characters have different ways of living that single life. At first I thought it was great that all the characters were so different but then I thought about it more and actually we’ve gone backwards 20 years because turns out they’ve just replicated the Sex and the City characters. For real.

Robin (Rebel Wilson) = Samantha, the one that sleeps around and doesn’t settle down.

Alice (Dakota Johnson) = Carrie, completely loses herself in relationships and can’t stay single.

Meg (Leslie Mann) = Miranda, career-obsessed independent woman who actually has a heart.

Lucy (Alison Brie) = Charlotte, desperate for a relationship, marriage and children.

WHERE IS THE LIE?!

Do they even go to work?

The characters Robin and Alice meet because they work at the same place but once they’ve met we never really see them go back to work again. When Alice has her becoming-herself-montage we never see her at work, did she quit? And when Robin and Alice fall out and don’t speak for a few weeks are we supposed to believe that either one of them or both of them stopped going to work!? The location where Alice’s apartment is in Williamsburg, Brooklyn (I felt so cool that I recognised the street) would be so expensive! She needs to work!

Being single is just a piss up

First of all, if you’re not British a “piss up” is basically a booze fest. HTBS portrays single life as just going clubbing and getting drunk ALL THE TIME. I don’t know about you but my single social life consists of brunch/lunch/dinner dates with friends, hanging out at someone’s house or the occasional outing to music/comedy gigs, cultural excursions or shopping. Most of the time I spend with my friends is sober and I didn’t really get that vibe from the film. But if you want to pre-drink before going out but you don’t actually want to drink alcohol you should watch this film. It will get you pumped. I felt so drunk and ready to go clubbing after watching it and I was completely sober.

Despite all my issues with HTBS I would recommend you watching it because it’s just a really funny film that you can switch off and enjoy. Once you switch back on you end up with blog posts like this but genuinely at the time I really enjoyed this film.

Have you seen it? Are you planning to go see it? What expectations do you have for female led comedies in 2016? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

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6 Comments

  1. Well, I didn’t see it yet and can’t wait too long cos it’s a comedy lead by Dakota and Rebel and Leslie, whom, in person, are so fun! I saw all the interviews out there and it’s clear that it’s a good movie for night gals in. It’s been a long time since I enjoyed a good night in with movies. Anyway, it’s a comedy so it doesn’t bother me that it’s so far from our reality. Though, I agree in all that you wrote here. Have you read the book? Can it be worthed reading?
    Xo
    Elvi

  2. I am so pleased with this review! You described perfeclty what I thought as well. I was also wondering why they club all the time.
    Love, Liliann from
    lilianndehn.blogspot.com

  3. I saw the film and also liked it. It was funny but still…
    Didn’t like how they talked “long term relationship pussy” (there’s nothing wrong with pubic hair) and how female and male friends get really drunk together, they have to had sex (utterly stupid)…
    Funny film and maybe I even would watch it again, not’s just very feminist one. I have seen so much better “female lead” comedies :/

  4. Great review! I do love a female led comedy and this sounds like it’s going to be funny, but I like that you can look at it objectively and see flaws in it, too. You should definitely write more film reviews, I’d love to see this as a regular feature.

    alicered.co.uk

  5. I admire you greatly Hannah, this is a good review and whilst you have stated that this isn’t a blog about representation – I find your comment about needing more comedies lead by black women a little bit off. Of course we need this, but we also need films led by more women who are Hispanic, Asian, Indian, Black etc. Not to mention films led by LBGTQIA women not just those pandering to women who identify as straight. IDK, I don’t want to sound critical or to dictate to you what you can or cannot write on your own blog. But surely a comment about how Hollywood needs more comedies that are more representative of those of us who do suffer from oppressive institutions, you know…more intersectional etc would be ace, perhaps for future reviews?
    I just think it’s important to be supportive of all instead of just a few.

  6. I really enjoyed this movie, and while I agree that it’s not ‘technically’ good, there are still a lot of great things about it.

    For instance, yes, the characters are quite one-dimensional, but it serves a purpose. It’s showing how there is no one way to be single, and there’s definitely no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ way of being single. I think it’s also a great way to show that while people are capable of change, they don’t necessarily do or want to. I guess this is mainly shown through Robin, as the her first scene is her dancing in a club, and her last scene is her dancing in a club again. I did, however, really like one line where she says something along the lines of, “At least I know when I eventually settle down with someone, they’ll like me for me and not who I pretend to be when I’m around them.” (Or something along those lines.) It was like, ‘yeah I’m a crazy party animal, but at least I know who I am and don’t pander to anybody’.

    And as much as I love Alison Brie, I also agree that Lucy is a completely redundant character. I reckon they could have cut out her character and story all together and focused a bit more on making the rest of the cast a bit more well-rounded and better developing their stories better. However, that would probably also mean cutting out Jason Mantzoukas, and I would never wish that on anybody! (I love him. So. Much)

    It’s a good film and I would recommend it to people, but I do agree with your points.

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