How to Be Single

Content Caution

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Bob Hoose

Movie Review

Alice wants to be loved. But after a number of floundering relational miscues wonders, “What’s the deal?”

Her older sister Meg wants a baby without a husband in the deal.

Lucy wants an instant lifelong commitment without the time-wasting find-the-right-guy side of the deal.

Robin wants to party so hard she doesn’t remember any part of any deal.

And Tom wants to get drunk and laid while manipulating girls like puppets on a string. That’s his deal.

Throw these twentysomething deal-makers and a handful of others into the hustle-bustle hit-the-bars lifestyle of a big city, stir the martini vigorously, and some would say you’ve got the makings of a modern romantic comedy …

… but what we’d call a really bad deal.

Positive Elements

After several failed relationships with generally selfish guys, Alice comes to the understanding that being single can be something worth cherishing. It’s a chance to get to know herself, she reasons, without being tugged and pulled by the strings of other people’s expectations. (And if you don’t look too deeply into the particulars, well, that’s probably a positive thing.) Meg, meanwhile, meets a sincere and loving guy named Ken who freely commits to her and her newborn baby. (Again, don’t zoom in too tight on that scene since the film and its characters have a pretty hard time defining things like commitment and love.) One guy gives us the bromide, “When I’m with her, I’m like me … only a better me.”

Sexual Content

The first time we meet Tom, he’s climbing out of bed dressed in nothing but a pair of skimpy undershorts that don’t do much to obscure his erection. A panty- and bra-clad woman from across the courtyard spies him through his bedroom window, leans out her own window and yells, “Need a hand with that?”

Yes. This is that kind of movie. So you might not want to deal yourself in before you read the rest of this:

We see another guy fully nude from the rear. Alice and a girl named Lucy show off their bras and cleavage. We see the beginning and/or aftermath of several casual hookups. (Groping, kissing, undressing, moaning, etc.). Robin’s rampant, drunken sexuality is a running joke as she wakes up in different guys’ apartments in various states of undress. Several of the movie’s women share a belief in a “drink number” formula: After reaching a particular combined drinks-imbibed number with someone, sex is inevitable.

In fact, the film presents as accepted worldview that casual non-committed sex is perfectly natural and expected, even between strangers. And it’s those visuals and attitudes that set the tone for this pic’s flavor of constant crude humor. Which includes: references to male and female genitalia, lesbianism, masturbation and other sex acts.

For instance, when Alice decides to break up with her longtime boyfriend to “see what being single might be like,” he immediately suggests that she simply have sex with one of his friends so she can get over it and come back to him. “After all,” he explains. “I’ll miss your boobs.” A group of bachelorette partiers have penis-shaped cups, straws and lollipops.

Violent Content

Robin flails about, breaking things—sometimes while drunk, sometimes not.

Crude or Profane Language

No such thing as a single f- and s-word here, each of which clocks in at about 15. We hear a couple uses each of “a–” and “b–ch.” Some crude terms are assigned to anatomical parts. God’s name is misused nearly 30 times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

Every one of the central characters drinks freely and regularly. Tom runs a bar, and we see crowds of people downing beer and wine there. That sense of a free-flowing tap is repeated in a number of party and casual settings as well, with several people getting drunk and staggering around. Alice gets hammered. And Robin’s drunken and stoned antics are epic. She pulls bottles of wine out of her cleavage and swills booze with both hands. She snorts crushed Pepto-Bismol tablets. And one time she drags herself up from behind someone’s couch with a joint stuck to her face. When Meg takes a pregnancy test, Robin joins her, taking a urine test that she proudly says proves her “drug habit.”

Other Negative Elements

Lucy has an “emotional meltdown” and starts talking about adult topics—from break-ups to Spanx—with a group of young kids in a bookstore. Several bathroom-minded jokes swirl around, and giggles are gleaned from Meg’s water breaking in a gush. Jews in a law firm get jabbed at.

Conclusion

To tell ya the truth, How to Be Single is a lousy title for this movie. There’s really very little insight of any kind here for your average single to harvest or digest. There’s certainly no sensible instruction on the finer points of navigating the wilds of your early twenties.

My moving-naming suggestion? How to Hook Up in a Hollywood-Fabricated Fantasy Full of Young, Beautiful Alcoholics-to-Be Who Love Quick Quips But Haven’t Got a Clue What Having a Moral Compass Means.

Oh. That’s too long to mash together after a hashtag, you say?

Do it anyway. ‘Cause this is a pic rife with vulgar penis-centric gags, inane, booze-guzzling micro sitcom scenes and awful, empty, sexual self-gratification overtures. It’s a poorly crafted “chick flick” that attacks its intended audience by portraying today’s young women as a rather feckless and unanchored lot. I, personally, would give the average Millennial Miss much more credit—even in the context of a romantic comedy screenplay.

I guess I’ll give this film what little credit it deserves, too: By credit’s roll, there are a few sensible words offered up about using your singleness to gain insight into the person you are and who you may want to become. But, frankly, by the time those thoughtful lines show up, they’re attached to the rest of this tiresome tale by the wispiest of gossamer dramatic threads … exactly like the misleading title that doesn’t quite fit.

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Bob Hoose
Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.