How to Be Single is a lot like its Jager-bombing, romance-seeking protagonists: Cute and goofy and kind of a mess.
Dakota Johnson stars as Alice, fresh out of college and a four-year relationship. (Actually, she’s told her lovelorn stork of a boyfriend, played by Nicholas Braun, that she wants a break, not a breakup — just to see what it feels like to be on her own.) So, like a thousand rom-com heroines before her, she moves alone to New York City in search of love, adventure, and maybe a good makeover montage. What she finds is a job as a paralegal at a staid law firm and a new best friend, Robin (Rebel Wilson), an all-id blonde with the vocabulary of an Australian Amy Schumer and the impulse control of a young Charlie Sheen. If Robin is Alice’s window into Wild’n’Single New York, her older sister Meg (Leslie Mann) is the mildly depressing flipside: An overworked obstetrician too busy (or guarded) for relationships, she spends her evenings in house pants googling sperm donors while Alice and Robin are out at bars and parties, making the fun kind of bad choices your twenties are made for. (There’s also a tenuously related side plot with Alison Brie as Lucy, a manic romantic who swipes right like it’s a contact sport and makes happy-couple photo albums for dudes she’s been dating for three weeks.)
It’s all stuff we’ve seen a million times before, but the movie wears its familiarity lightly; the standalone jokes are generally much sharper than the storyline, and there’s also something refreshing about a comedy that treats certain topics — interracial relationships, IVF, Robin’s weight — simply as part of their characters’ lives, not bullseyes for tired jokes. And the men, including Anders Holm, Damon Wayans Jr., Jason Mantzoukas, and Jake Lacy, aren’t jerks or suckers, they’re just flawed, regular guys. Maybe most importantly, being coupled isn’t the endgame for every Single girl here; some of them are standing alone at the end — by choice, not tragic oversight. How to Be Single doesn’t come close to reinventing the rom-com wheel; its creators aren’t even trying to, really. But at least they’re spinning it forward, just a little bit. B