Guys, we totally slept on “How To Be Single.”
You know, that one movie with that one trailer, where Rebel Wilson refers to another woman’s vagina as a sausage-wallet, and you audibly went, “Nope, uh uh,” but was then immediately followed by a shot of Jason Mantzoukas cheering as Alison Brie flashed him, and another of a background actor who looks exactly like G Eazy, and you almost admitted to yourself that it looked good enough to go see, but never did? Yeah, me too, girl. Don’t worry.
Opening weekend, How To Be Single only managed to pull in $17 million at the box office, as it went head-to-head with Deadpool; which, for comparison, brought in nearly 100 million more.
With focus having been sufficiently stolen, most critics didn’t give this film a second look, which is extremely unfortunate.
How To Be Single marks a positive step forward for the romantic comedy genre. Unlike the ultimately rather conservative Trainwreck, at the end of this movie some characters end up happy in relationships, and others end up genuinely happy alone. Learning to enjoy one’s own company is valued as much as learning the real meaning of love and intimacy, as well as that of engaging in casual sex (albeit it being heteronormative and vanilla); and all of it is portrayed as a simple facet of life that is nothing to be ashamed of. The most promiscuous character is played by a plus-sized woman, and her weight isn’t once mentioned, let alone used as a punchline.
By that same token, we have Damon Wayans Jr. in a role that never mentions that he’s black, doesn’t care that he’s black, and doesn’t worry what audiences will think of him dating a white girl.
This movie is all about sexual agency. Multiple women have sex with multiple men throughout the course of this movie, and the film, nor the characters apologize for it.
There is no walk of shame, no slutshaming, and no misplaced animosity between women over a guy.
This is a romantic-comedy about single women, and it doesn’t just have them all get married in the final reel, nor does it treat not getting married like the worst fucking thing that can happen to women, at any age. This movie is basically all the stuff you were left wanting after watching more than 10-minutes of any episode of Sex And The City, because you couldn’t relate to the idea that you can only be a realist or wide-eyed; a slut or a prude; happily-coupled or unhappily waiting for a guy, any guy, to marry you.
That being said, How To Be Single touches on the differences of it’s female leads, without making them out to be rigid constructs. Hmmm, women who think and make choices differently, because gender isn’t their only identifier, but also are allowed to have multiple (even competing) thoughts bouncing around in their heads—you know, like men. What a thought.
The brash, inappropriate party-girl (Rebel Wilson) is also, at times, the voice of reason; The wide-eyed stalker (Alison Brie), who presents the guy she’s been dating for three weeks, with a photo album full of pictures of “us,” is also surprisingly well-adjusted and has some genius level intellect; The financially secure and self-sufficient career woman (Leslie Mann) who accidentally starts dating a younger man, after choosing to get pregnant via a sperm donor, turns out to be even less emotionally prepared for it than he is. The women aren’t dichotomies of one another, as much as they are dichotomies of themselves. Yay, complex (read: real) women!
Then you have Dakota Johnson—looking far more relaxed and comfortable here than in the Red Room of Pain in 50 Shades of Grey—acting as the glue of the film. A job she fulfilled admirably, and surprisingly. Johnson represents that person we all know, who declares they want to be single, but then immediately tries to enter into a relationship. Her character is reminiscent of Rory from Gilmore Girls, and not just because the two share the same unfortunate haircut (Rory’s season four bangs were a dark time for all of us). It’s because in the same way Johnson’s character gets her college boyfriend by having him fall literally naked at her feet, Rory’s mom brings up the harsh truth that she’s never really dated, and has been lucky enough to have the guys she’s been in relationships with just fall into her lap. Johnson’s character works, because like the others, her story is full circle, without feeling too finished, as if she systematically shuts down robot-style, and only continues to exist if there’s a sequel. Starting out by lamenting that she’s not ready to be alone because she doesn’t know how to get rid of the spanish subtitles on her tv, she ultimately achieves happiness as a single woman; which the audience knows, thanks to a series of visual metaphors about learning to unzip one’s own dress and tackling daunting tasks like hiking miles through unknown territory by oneself in the dead of night (wait, don’t do that, it’s dangerous).
How To Be Single has one message and it’s an important one, that we need to start declaring more feverantly:
Not all happy endings require a ring, a wedding, or to be saved from takeout containers for one—none of which are bad things.
You’re allowed to be happy in whatever situation you’re in, and you don’t have to apologize to anyone for it.
If not for nothing, How To Be Single is better than any of those other anthology movies we’ve been getting from Garry Marshall (Mother’s Day, New Year’s Eve). And quite frankly it’s a miracle it wasn’t just as hallucious, considering of the film’s screenwriters, two also penned He’s Just Not That Into You as well as The Vow, and another wrote Couples Retreat and What Happens In Vegas. Seriously, a goddamn miracle.