I am recently single. I’m also a twenty four year old white woman so when someone asks me why I like How To Be Single it seems like a no brainer because I am the target demo, Aside from having a real job and financial stability, I can be Alice (Dakota Johnson). To me, what’s most important about this movie is that it’s exactly what I wanted. When you’re single, you want someone to tell you the upsides and how everything will work out. The movie feels like a hug and a fist bump saying that at times it might suck but in the end, you’ll be more in tune with yourself and personal identity.
How To Be Single is the intertwining stories of the single women in New York. Alice is entering the scene with naive wonder after ending her relationship with her long term college boyfriend. Her significantly older sister Meg (Leslie Mann) has decided to have a baby even though she hasn’t had time for men in her life which she has dedicated to her career. Lucy (Alison Brie) has rigidly mapped out a life plans that include getting married so is constantly in search for Mr. Right utilizing every dating app available and Robin (Rebel Wilson) is the wild child and life coach to Alice who needs help to navigate the real world. What brings them all together is Tom’s (Anders Holmes) bar and the sexual appeal of Tom himself.
I didn’t realize till after the first viewing of how much the female leads resemble the archetypes of Sex and the City which are most associated with New York and the single life. Why I didn’t notice at first is slightly because contrary to the marketing, the main characters are not a group of gal pals who meet for mimosas to discuss their dating mishaps. These women’s lives are quite separate and the film itself is told in vignettes, glimpses of major events in singledom but it also distances itself from being Sex and the City since that series’ objective was for everyone to find a mate. By the series finale everyone was practically married, even Samantha has Smith Jared (I won’t let the subsequent movies negate that). How To Be Single is focused on embracing your independence.
Over the course of the film Alice realizes that in her quest to learn to be single, she has spent more time getting sucked into romantic relationships when she missed the real point of being alone. The film’s stand out metaphor is Alice’s inability to unzip her own dress which granted seems a bit unrealistic though I’ve had very little experience in dress wearing. This visual keeps coming up of the independence she hasn’t completely grasped until she can finally let go of the baggage of her ex and of the men she’s been involved with since. Much like needing to find her own unique way to unzip the dress, she figures out her own way to be single which means something different for everyone.
The film is open to there being more than one way to be your true self. After Meg has her baby she tells her on and off boyfriend that while she knows she can take care of this child on her own, she’s also ready to allow another person in her life. Similarly Alice gives what would be a stereotypical profession of love speech to Robin but is instead declaring the need for their friendship that she’s willing to fight for. You can maintain and grow in your independence even with the help of others which is something I took away from my own break of. To me the most important part of being single isn’t being able to unzip your dress but rather rekindling and appreciating the friendships you may have neglected when you were dating.
I appreciate this movie because it gets the emotions and atmosphere right. It captures the highs and lows you go through like one minute you’re dancing with your friends and the next and the next you’re crying over your ex. I watch this movie and I want to have Alice’s strength and level headedness. I want to be able to walk out of a guy’s apartment like her and put on that leather jacket looking like a badass Sarah Connor even if her face reads otherwise. I may not be having the lively twenty something experiences of parties and drunk hook up but having a movie like this that I can bring those friends that I’m reconnecting with to is just as an exciting experience.
I really do need a leather jacket though.