Newly-single Alice (Johnson) hits the Manhattan bar scene with her broody sister Meg (Mann) and party girl pal Robin (Wilson). They frequent a bar where Lucy (Brie) is trying to find the perfect man and barman Tom (Holm) is serving up more than cocktails.
Like the busy New York bars it depicts, this zippy comedy based on Liz Tuccillo’s book is crowded with characters. Or perhaps that should be archetypes? There’s the lip-biting heroine exploring her newfound independence with a mixture of apprehension and excitement, who recalls Johnson’s Fifty Shades Of Grey character. Then there’s the sexually confident party girl (Wilson), who owes a clear debt to Sex And The City’s Samantha as well as past characters from both Wilson and Amy Schumer. Then there’s the control freak (Brie), who will appeal to fans of Friends’ Monica and SATC’s Charlotte. Meanwhile Mann’s broody older sister character shares Samantha’s paranoia about her age, as well as Monica’s desire for a baby.
This is giddy, glamorous catnip for Sex And The City fans.
Of course, the fleshed-out characters of Friends have more defining characteristics than those in How To Be Single – as do the Sex And The City girls, up to a point. Squeezing a big cast into a medium length feature film means that How To Be Single’s ladies don’t have a chance to blossom. Their male counterparts are even less developed, especially widowed rich guy David (Damon Wayans Jr.), who aside from providing much needed diversity has little purpose in the plot.
The script offers conflicting messages about gender and relationship etiquette - it’s easy to spot the influence of both male and female screenwriters and a couple of scenes feel particularly patronising towards one or the other gender (there’s not much variation on sexual prefence, either).
All that said, How To Be Single has its charms. It taps into realistic dating dilemmas, from texting etiquette to one night stands. And for every cliché there’s a sharp, silly improvised aside from Wilson in a sexed-up version of her Pitch Perfect persona (you get the impression her funniest lines were improvised). Mann has amusing set pieces, and while Johnson’s Alice might verge on annoyingly submissive, there’s some reward in the narrative’s conclusion, which is closer to a feminist message than anything that has come before it.
Contrary to its title, this is hardly a handbook, but it may provide a mirror for young female audiences both embracing and despairing of the single life – and it will certainly make them laugh. With its themes and locations, cocktails and heels, this is giddy, glamorous catnip for Sex And The City fans.
Aiming squarely at Carries, Mirandas, Charlottes and Samanthas, How To Be Single is familiar but fun.