Movie Review: How to Be Single

Like Bad Moms, this movie was HILARIOUS! I seriously found myself busting up laughing quite a lot. The movie also makes a good social commentary about singlehood.

The film follows the lives of three single women: Robin, an extroverted partygoer, played by Rebel Wilson, and a cautious young woman named Alice (Dakota Johnson) who lives with her sister Meg (Leslie Mann). After graduating college, Alice decides to break up with her boyfriend to move to New York City, and gets a job as a paralegal. On her first day she meets Robin, who shows her how to enjoy her newfound singlehood in the big city. She gives Alice tips on how to hook up with guys and enjoy herself, but Alice finds herself still conflicted about her ex-boyfriend while meeting these other men. Meg finds out that she is pregnant even though at first she doesn’t want kids, and meets a guy who actually wants a long term committed relationship with her. Alice, meanwhile, still remains conflicted about whether or not to get back with her ex-boyfriend even though he has moved on.

What I really loved about this film is the cliches about romantic comedies that they manage to point out at various points in the film. A few years ago, singlehood was often stigmatized and single people were often seen lonely and crying over not having anyone. However, the movie sends a good message that just because you are single doesn’t mean you can’t be happy. And in fact, no single person’s life is going to be identical. One of the guys Alice meets, for instance, is a single dad. She assumes he is married just because he has a daughter, but then she finds out his wife died. Instead of letting her into his life, we find out that he does not feel emotionally ready to have Alice replace his wife and be his daughter’s new mom. He ends up using the time he has to not remarry to develop a healthy relationship with his daughter even after his wife’s death. Had he remarried, it would have been a completely different story and Alice wouldn’t have time to enjoy her singlehood anymore.

Tom, who works as a bartender, hooks up with various women in the movie, but he himself does not want a long-term committed relationship. In the beginning, he meets a young woman named Lucy and makes fun of her for using online dating sites to find people rather than meet them in person. However, when she gets married, he continues to act like she still loves him, but her husband George lets him know that Lucy is for real about being married and to stay away from her (seeing Jason Mantzoukas give this diss to Anders Holm-Tom–was brilliant but also gave me chills because it was so well-delivered). It’s similar to the film Up In the Air, when George Clooney’s character loves living a life where he can just fly by himself in first class and hook up with women, but then has to face the reality that the women he treated so carelessly move on and get married.

The movie also not only challenges stereotypes about single women, but also pregnant women. One great scene is when Meg is shopping for things at a maternity store and Ken, the guy who wants to be in a long term relationship with her, jokingly calls her crazy for not telling him that she is pregnant, and says that pregnant women are crazy. She then tells him that it is rude to call a pregnant woman crazy and then storms out on him. One of the salespeople calls out to Meg, “Tell him, girl” for calling Ken out on his nonsense. I literally had to watch this scene at least three times because it was so funny. Normally if a woman gets angry in a store, the people working behind the counter just stare in shock (not surprisingly, considering I used to work in retail), but I love how in this little moment that woman cheered Meg on for challenging Ken on his comment about pregnant women. *Side note: I thought Ken looked familiar, and so I thought, Wait did he star in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel? And then I looked him up on Wikipedia and it said he starred in Obvious Child. He was a great actor in that movie, too. 🙂

What I like about the film is that it challenges the idea that being single means either being totally lonely for the rest of your life or living this totally carefree life where you can just do what you want without consequences. Robin spends all this money partying and taking Alice shopping; however we later find out that she is quite wealthy and didn’t really need a job, and was only really working at a law firm so she could spend time with Alice. She made Alice pay for a lot of their fun together, which isn’t fair from a real-life perspective because Alice probably didn’t come from a sizeable nest egg like Robin did. All of the people I have talked to about living in New York City have told me it is incredibly expensive, so in real life it wouldn’t have been good for Alice’s budget to live Robin’s social life. I am glad that she finally came to understand that she needed to love herself and take responsibility for her own life so that she could feel confident about who to let in her life and who to leave. Finding yourself in your 20s and 30s is different for everyone. Some people, like me, have found themselves through learning how to appreciate being alone because having depression can often make you feel guilty for spending time alone.

In a 2003 Psychology Today article, Hara Estroff Marano says that in today’s hyperconnected world, we need to embrace solitude so that we can harness our creativity and learn to love ourselves. Marano says that unlike solitude, which is “refreshing; an opportunity to renew ourselves..loneliness is harsh, punishment, a deficiency state, a state of discontent marked by a sense of estrangement, an awareness of excess aloneness. Solitude is something you choose; loneliness is imposed on you by others” (“What Is Solitude?”) Alice learns that it’s okay to stay in and read a book if you don’t want to go to a party, and she also gets a chance to mend her friendship with Robin.

Overall, this is a really excellent film and I wouldn’t mind seeing it more than once.

How to Be Single. 1 hr 50 min. Rated R for sexual content and strong language throughout.

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