Last night I saw How to be Single with some of my girlfriends. The trailer promised laughter and shenanigans, both of which I desperately needed after a rather long week at work, and overall the movie definitely delivered.
Rebel Wilson essentially reprises her role as Pitch Perfect’s Fat Amy, minus the singing and with an additional dash of unexpected wisdom. Dakota Johnson was her side-kick protege trying to find herself in the brand new world of Post Grad Singledom. And then of course there was a token male character who proved himself emotionally unavailable filler and juxtaposition for the main leads. While some of that was desperately cliche, I’ll admit that I found pretty much all of it to be hilarious in context.
However, I was also pleasantly surprised to find some deeper layers in the movie, too. There was always comedy, but with a few serious themes wrapped up in the humorous delivery.
Leslie Mann’s character made the brave decision to go through in vitro fertilization as a single woman. She was career driven and financially stable, but had never found someone with whom she wanted to raise a family. Then, a few weeks into her pregnancy, she unexpectedly meets a man several years her junior at a holiday party. He turns out to be a real goofball, but one who is also genuinely enthusiastic about starting a family with her and even gets really excited about the possibility of becoming a stay at home dad. There was humor in the way the movie presented this situation, but not in the discussions it brings up about age differences in relationships and confronting gender stereotypes. Honestly this was probably one of my favorite parts of the whole movie. Why is it that bucking “tradition” is so fascinating to me?
Dakota Johnson’s character was the closest thing to a “central focus” of the story. After college, she moved to New York, got a job and left a four year relationship to try and learn more about who she was on her own. But over the course of the film she comes to realize what Wilson’s character has known all along: that the state of being “single” isn’t just about not being in a romantic relationship; it’s about being comfortable with yourself on an internal level, about being able to enjoy your own company first and foremost.
In her Ted Talk, Connected But Alone?, Sheri Turkle says:
“Solitude is where you find yourself so that you can reach out to other people and form real attachments. When we don’t have the capacity for solitude, we turn to other people in order to feel less anxious or in order to feel alive….We slip into thinking that always being connected is going to make us feel less alone. But we’re at risk because actually it’s the opposite that’s true. If we’re not able to be alone, we’re going to be more lonely.”
Every time Johnson started a relationship with someone, she focused on collecting affirmation from her partners and, without realizing it, lost herself in that person’s expectations of who she should be. And because she never allowed herself to be single, she never learned enough about who she was on her own to miss the identity she gave up when she was with someone else. That’s kind of a powerful theme for a movie that advertised itself as a rom-com, isn’t it? I think so.
If you’re on the fence about seeing this movie, and you trust my opinion in any way, I’d say that it’s worth seeing. It was enjoyable as just a comedy, but had a little something extra for those who were willing to pay attention, too. I’d give it a solid four out of five stars.