Many unattached adults find being alone difficult especially on Valentine's Day, so I guess it makes sense that there would be a movie called "How to Be Single" (R, 1:50) in theaters starting the second weekend in February. What doesn't make as much sense is using such a title for a movie that is more likely to make many singles feel even worse about not being in a romantic relationship on said holiday.
Dakota Johnson, Alison Brie, Rebel Wilson and Leslie Mann play four women navigating singlehood in New York City. In spite of what the movie poster implies, they are not a group of party-animal gal-pals who are all on this journey together, but there are connections here. Mann plays Meg, an obstetrician who doesn't need a man or a baby to feel fulfilled (thank you very much). Meg is the older sister of recent college graduate Alice (Johnson) who becomes best friends with new co-worker, confirmed bachelorette and hearty partier Robin (Wilson). Lucy (Brie) is a control freak with high standards who plugs data from dating websites into algorithms and spreadsheets in the hopes of finding the perfect man. Through Alice, Meg and Robin kind of become friends-in-law, while Alice and Lucy both end up involved with the same guy at different points, but that's the extent of these characters crossing paths.
These four women all view being single differently and learn different lessons along the way. Alice breaks up with college boyfriend Josh (Nicholas Braun) because she feels she needs to experience being single for a while. When she is hired by the same law firm where Robin works, Robin takes Alice to a bar and tries to school her in how to be single. Alice hooks up with handsome bartender Tom (Anders Holm), which actually makes her miss her relationship with Josh, even as she keeps bumping into real estate developer David (Damon Wayans Jr.). As independent as she is, Meg starts thinking that she might want a baby, but not necessarily a man, although sweet younger man Ken (Jake Lacy) seems interested in changing her mind about that last part. Meanwhile, Alice becomes friends with Tom (since she lives above his bar and has most of her first dates in that bar). Her data analysis leads her to the handsome Paul (Colin Jost), but she also attracts the attention of funny bookstore owner George (Jason Mantzoukas). Robin doesn't want to meet Mr. Right, but just to drink, dance and be with Mr. Right Now.
Part of the problem with "How to Be Single" is those characterizations. Instead of following these women as a group, screenwriters Abby Kohn, Mark Silverstein and Dana Fox (adapting Liz Tuccillo's 2008 novel of the same name) jump back and forth between loosely connected stories. This muddles the movie's message and makes the plot a little hard to follow. The script manages a few laughs (mostly crude sex and toilet humor) sprinkled throughout the movie and almost overshadowed by the large number of un-funny and uncomfortably awkward moments. In spite of director Christian Ditter's attempts at character development, the characters still feel shallow. Then, the resolutions of some of these stories send mixed messages which seem more likely to upset than comfort unhappy singles.
But before I render my verdict, here are a few fun facts: (1) This movie is based on Tucillo's first novel, but her earlier 2004 book, "He's Just Not That Into You" (co-written with Greg Behrendt) won a Quill Award, was a New York Times best seller was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show and was adapted into a film of the same name in 2009, a movie with a better cast, better script and better director than this one and with moderately more entertainment value. (2) Johnson's character gets involved with the character played by Wayans', whose uncle, Marlon Wayans, co-wrote and starred in 2016's "Fifty Shades of Black", which was a parody of Johnson's 2015 blockbuster "Fifty Shades of Grey". (3) In the theater where I watched "How to Be Single" (on Valentine's Day), I saw no one sitting alone. The audience was mainly groups of women (which seemed to enjoy the movie a little more than I did) and couples (which vocalized somewhat less approval). (4) This film's original title was "How NOT To Be Single". Okay, that last one isn't a fact, but it does fit this rarely funny and forgettable movie, with its mish-mash of confused, self-centered characters and convoluted messages. "C-"