A group of young friends hanging out in Seattle during the grunge era try and make their mark on the world and find love whilst they're at it.
It is set in Seattle; members of Pearl Jam and Alice In Chains loiter listlessly in the background ; Matt Dillon sports a cascading, unkempt grunge-wig ; writer-director Cameron Crowe's apprenticeship was as a writer for American rock bible Rolling Stone. In fact, all the signs suggested that Singles was to be a very swift, opportune cash-in on the phenomenon that is grunge.
Thankfully it is far better than that. There may be plenty of fashionable alienated noise playing quietly in the background, Dillon may front a band called Citizen Dick (theme song "Touch Me — I'm Dick") and characters may occasionally fondle the odd record sleeve (not Nirvana), but despite the pun of the film's title, this is not a tediously contemporary film about music but rather a timeless one about love.
Crowe is smart enough to realise that whatever may be distinctive or new about the world of grunge, it is also just another subcultural vortex around which young people do the very same things — fall in love, fall out of love, and fool themselves about either state of affairs — as they did to Rock Around The Clock, punk, disco and Fleetwood Mac.
The film itself is not carried by Dillon but by Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick and Bridget Fonda, their lines well-observed without being mannered and, for the most part, witty without being played for laughs. What actually happens — the action is based around the comings and goings in a complex of single apartments — could be conveyed in a couple of very flat sentences.
There are not even any of the obligatory suicides or drug overdoses usually wheeled in to provide pathos and melodrama during the final act of supposedly intimate American films about the young, and this steers the viewer towards no remarkable insights or simple conclusions. Instead it is crammed with the sort of mild, messy emotions that even the most cloth-eared grunge-o-phobe will find frustratingly familiar.
Intelligent and witty ensemble rom-com for the grunge generation.