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Movie Review

‘How to Be Single’ is a messy take on dating

Leslie Mann (left) and Dakota Johnson in “How to be Single.”Warner Bros. Pictures/Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture?

Being single, as depicted in director Christian Ditter’s raunchy rom-com adaptation of Liz Tuccillo’s novel “How to Be Single,” is exhausting and seemingly endless. So many drinks, discos, fumblings with clothes in dark storerooms, hookups, breakups, bouts of self-loathing, moments of self-searching, glib jokes, and glibber platitudes. Being single is a mess. So is the film, and it’s almost messy enough to seem authentic.

It features the heirs of “Sex and the City” (for which Tuccillo once wrote an episode) and “Bridget Jones’s Diary” — both of which are namedropped in the dialogue. Our guide is wide-eyed Alice (Dakota Johnson), who’s been with stolid Josh (Peyton Manning lookalike Nicholas Braun) since they met cute in college but now wants to find out who she really is. Which means she has to be single — doesn’t it?


Alice’s sister Meg (Leslie Mann) is an obstetrician who adamantly doesn’t want a baby of her own — refusing to, as she puts it, “surrender my identity to some love terrorist.”

Robin is the wasted, sybaritic, scatological type usually played by Melissa McCarthy but here played with a quicker wit and an Australian accent by Rebel Wilson. No matter how many times Robin wakes up in a strange place with a joint stuck to her face, in the company of some guy she doesn’t know if she’s had sex with, the filmmakers think it never gets old. Which is too bad, because when she escapes the cliché Wilson is quite hilarious and inventive.

For Robin, men are just animated sex toys. Which is a role that Tom (Anders Holm), the hunky bartender in what is apparently the only gin joint in Manhattan, is more than happy to play. He gives Alice her first lesson in the philosophy of singleness as an upfront policy of no commitment and one-night stands.


Those are just a few of the film’s unconnected characters, each with their own stereotyped reason for not knowing how to be single. Whose mildly nonconformist attitude will crumble first? That’s about the only suspense to be found in this alternately sappy and sharp dissection of the conflict between self-fulfillment and solipsistic self-absorption.



Directed by Christian Ditter. Written by Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein, and Dana Fox, based on the novel by Liz Tuccillo. Starring Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Damon Wayans Jr., Anders Holm, Leslie Mann, and Nicholas Braun. At Boston Common, Fenway, suburbs. 110 minutes. Rated R (sexual content and strong language throughout).

Peter Keough can be reached at