Overloaded but endearing female-fronted comedy, with Dakota Johnson and Rebel Wilson
This Drew Barrymore produced comedy, directed by Christian Ditter, is based on the popular Liz Tuccillo novel. Tuccillo is the co-writer of self-help guide He’s Just Not That Into You, whose 2009 adaptation for screen shares two of this film’s screenwriters, as well as a penchant for straight-talking advice and an annoying know-it-all bartender. Barrymore’s interest in backing women’s stories through her production company Flower Films has had varying degrees of success, with Whip It proving to be a critical (albeit not commercial) highlight and, though this latest endeavour is a mixed bag, there’s a sweet message about friendship and self-love at the centre of it.
When Alice (Dakota Johnson) is faced with singledom after the break-up of a long-term relationship, she is gallantly ushered into her new life in New York City by work colleague and party girl Robin (Rebel Wilson, being her funniest self) who teaches her how to let her hair down. Writers Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein and Dana Fox place the emphasis on Alice’s journey but also work in narratives following her older sister Meg (Leslie Mann), who makes the decision to get pregnant via an anonymous sperm donor, and Lucy (Alison Brie), a woman obsessed with online dating who gets questionable advice from the aforementioned bar owner, Tom (Anders Holm).
Gently poking fun at Bridget Jones’s Diary and Sex and the City (a show Tuccillo wrote for) makes for knowing and amusing moments and the evolving relationship between Alice and Robin delivers a satisfying denouement. The main problem with this multiple narrative set-up is that it shoehorns in too much material and the serious themes come across as flimsily thought out. A particularly weak subplot between Alice and single dad David (Damon Wayans Jr) could simply have been removed, since it adds so little to the story. Mainly, How to Be Single leaves you hankering for a comedy with a greater focus on Mann, so endearing and hilarious is the performance she turns in.
General release from Fri 19 Feb.