The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


How to Be Single
Own How to Be Single on Blu-ray or DVD on May 24 or Own It Early on Digital HD now!

How to Be Single follows four women living and working in New York City. Alice (Dakota Johnson) takes a “break” from her longtime boyfriend in order to play the field, then promptly regrets her decision. Meg (Leslie Mann) is an unmarried, middle-aged doctor who decides that, contrary to her previous claims, she wants children after all. Robin (Rebel Wilson) is a party girl who shows Alice the ropes of being free and single in the modern age. Lucy (Alison Brie) scours dating websites, hoping to find the perfect man. The movie follows them as they endure different romantic trials and tribulations. Alice has multiple flings, including one with a widower (Damon Wayans, Jr.), Meg falls for a younger man (Jake Lacy) after successfully being inseminated, and Lucy starts a flirtation with the bar owner (Anders Holm) whose establishment she frequents for the free wi-fi.

Upon first glance, not much about the movie seems distinct. There have been a lot of other pictures about the romances and sexual exploits of women in NYC, Sex and the City chief among them. There have also been more than a few ensemble films dealing with love, from He's Just Not That Into You to Valentine's Day to New Year's Eve. It would be easy to dismiss How to Be Single as a generic retread. That would be a mistake because, unlike most movies of its type, this one has a bit of a brain in its head. It isn't just a fluffy rom-com, but rather a serious attempt to explore – and get a few laughs from – the difficulties of being single in contemporary society.

What the film does better than anything is to show how expectations frequently fail to line up with reality. Alice thinks that she'll be happier playing the field and “finding” herself, but she quickly realizes that trying to achieve stability and happiness is harder than it seems. Meg, meanwhile, realizes that her “career first” attitude hasn't really fulfilled her in the manner she anticipated that it would. Most movies of this sort tend to stay in the shallow end of the pool; How to Be Single attempts to be a little deeper and more authentic. Not everything that happens in it rises fully above a sitcom level, but the majority of it does. Whether you're male or female, there's probably something here you can relate to.

At the same time, the film is often very funny. Rebel Wilson, of course, is her usual wild and crazy self, seemingly ad-libbing many of the best lines. Leslie Mann and Alison Brie, both of whom have previously-established comedic credentials, once again perfectly mix daffy humor with genuine emotion. The surprise is Dakota Johnson, who deftly captures Alice's bewilderment at the modern singles scene without ever veering into broadness. She's terrific. How to Be Single also features some hilarious situations the women get themselves into. There are many good laughs scattered throughout the film.

The problem with a movie containing multiple protagonists to follow is that nothing is ever as fully developed as it would be in a movie with just one protagonist. That's true here, as well. Alice's relationship with the widower is especially rushed, which is too bad given that what we get is quite affecting. There are moments where How to Be Single could have expanded more fully on its subplots. And I hate to say it because she's so funny, but the Rebel Wilson character could have been eliminated in order to do it. She doesn't really get a character arc; Robin is more or less just comic relief. Wilson fulfills that role perfectly, yet is never given anything more substantive to do.

Still, the movie is successful enough to be worth seeing. The performances are strong, the situations are identifiable, and director Christian Ditter works with cinematographer Christian Rein to make New York City a gorgeous, palpable presence in the story. How to Be Single shows that rom-coms can be artfully made and intelligent, rather than dumb and pandering.

( out of four)

Blu-ray Features:

How to Be Single will be available on DVD and Blu-ray May 24. The Blu-ray comes with an assortment of short bonus features, starting with “The Pros and Cons of How to Be Single.” Running five minutes, it presents many of the cast members discussing their characters and the situations they find themselves in. “Rebel Rabble: A Look at Rebel Wilson” is, as should be obvious, focused on how the star brought her unique comic sensibility to the project. “The Best Idea Wins: The Humor of How to Be Single,” meanwhile, looks at the movie's approach to comedy and trying to find the best joke for each scene.

Also on the disc are five deleted scenes, running eight minutes in total. Nothing here is sorely missed, although you do get a little more of Damon Wayans, Jr., plus a couple extra bits involving Alice dealing with the awkwardness of singlehood. Finally, there is a formal gag reel, followed by seven-and-a-half minutes of outtakes featuring Wilson.

The picture and sound quality on the Blu-ray are magnificent. Given the movie's sleek look and hip soundtrack, this disc puts your home theater system to good use.

How to Be Single is rated R for sexual content and strong language throughout. The running time is 1 hour and 50 minutes.

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