Tuesday, January 31, 2017

How to Be Single

Year 9, Day 31 - 1/31/17 - Movie #2,531

BEFORE: Day 2 of the Romance Chain, and I don't feel all that prepared, since it's also Day 2 with this head cold that hit yesterday, but I'm diving in anyway.  Alison Brie carries over from "Sleeping With Other People", and Jason Mantzoukas does as well - this makes three films in a row for him.

THE PLOT: A group of young adults navigate love and relationships in New York City.

AFTER: This morning, I was running a little late, due to this cold, and the corner deli ran out of my usual Tuesday apple danish, so I had to buy one with cinnamon walnut filling.  It was OK, but once I tasted cinnamon, which is often paired with apple, then the apple was conspicuous in its absence.  Now I know what the absence of apples tastes like.  This film is a little like that, in that it feels like it comes close to making some grander point, but instead the moral lesson is notoriously absent in the end.

But I think it works as an examination of how some people tend to sabotage their relationships - the times when people are clearly doing some things wrong, but they're just not aware of what exactly they are.  The main character, Alice, realizes that she's never been truly single, so she doesn't know who she really is, without defining herself through her relationships.  This once happened to a co-worker of mine, about 10 or 12 years ago, when my boss pointed out to her that she went from living with her parents to living in the college dorm, to living with her boyfriend, therefore he said, "but you've never lived on your own..."  In that instant, I realized her relationship was doomed, and sure enough, a few months later she split with her boyfriend and was living in an apartment by herself.

Which is ridiculous - in New York City you need a roommate at the very least, if you're going to afford any apartment bigger than a closet.  It's a fallacy that you have to be single to truly discover "who you are" - what if you're a person who prefers to live with other people, and that's truly who you are?  I tried living by myself for a few months back in 1996, and I didn't much care for it.  Mostly I ended up in conversations with my cat, just to keep from going insane.  Humans are social animals, we need contact with other people on a daily basis, and women shouldn't be made to apologize for this fact.

It's also a fallacy, ladies, that if you've never hiked the Grand Canyon, or gone skydiving, or done something that's on your bucket list, that your current relationship is to blame.  Plenty of married or otherwise non-single people hike the Grand Canyon every year, or do those other activities they want to do, and it's not even an issue.  And if your partner doesn't want to hike the Grand Canyon with you, then, please, go do it alone.  Because if you stick with that partner and don't go on that hike, you're eventually going to blame that person for holding you back, and that causes resentment.  If your relationship is strong, it will survive the week off that you need to go on that hike, or make that documentary, or do whatever you need to do in the world.

But the main character in this film is young, she hasn't figured all this out yet.  So she falls into this logical trap that tells her she has to live alone for a while - essentially she breaks up with her boyfriend because she thinks that will be "better" for the relationship.  In what universe?  If you go through the pain of separation, it will be harder to get back together and stay together in the long run, not easier.  And too much time apart will only hurt the relationship, despite what they say about absence making the heart grow fonder - it also allows people to focus their love attention elsewhere.

Alice further has the problem of being indecisive - she keeps waffling between three men (her former live-in boyfriend, the casual bartender and the widowed father).  But she's only one kind of single woman, for good measure they dump in three other kinds - the professional woman who wants to be a single mother, the one's who's calculated her search for the perfect man down to all the percentages,  and the devil-may-care single woman who drinks too much and sleeps around. But none of them are really who they pretend to be to the world, and nobody's plan comes out the way they initially predict.

The soon-to-be mother happens to fall for a younger man (who digs older woman) at just the wrong time - after becoming pregnant through a sperm donor.  Before that, maximum irony was achieved by making her an obstetrician who claims she doesn't want to have a kid.  Then, 10 minutes later, she's decided to become a single mother - that's quite a change in her character, without much of an explanation.  Taking all of the stories in total, it seems to me that the screenwriters don't know the difference between "character change" and "character growth".  Someone suddenly changing their mind about something does not constitute logical development.

Lucy, the single woman who's taken the logical, mathematical approach to her search for a mate is also on the wrong track in a way, because she's too open and upfront with each prospective man who fits her parameters, and she's planning the wedding after the first date, which naturally scares each man away.  How is a character whose only defining feature is her search for a man still a viable character in a film made in this century?  Did the writers forget to give Lucy a job, outside of her volunteering at the bookstore, reading books for children?  How can she afford that apartment in the Meatpacking District without a source of income? At least the other three women are paralegals and an OB/GYN doctor....

The fourth character, Robin, may be a paralegal, but she's also something of a mess.  But this is fine for comic effect - at first we're supposed to celebrate the fact that she drinks too much, wakes up with a hangover and always has a plan to get a change of clothes, a free make-over and a quick pick-me-up before making it to the office - but the best bit of comedy comes when they reveal that her plan fails spectacularly, on a regular basis.  But there's inconsistency here as well - is her advice always terrible, or occasionally incredibly helpful?  Because she always acts as if she knows exactly what she's doing, but tons of confidence will only get you so far, if the life plan is flawed to begin with.  And Rebel Wilson has got to be careful with roles like this, because she's not going to become a respected actor if all her characters do is act obnoxious and fall down a lot.  She's become the female Chris Farley, I'm sad to report.

In the end, the film can't seem to decide if being single is a good thing, or a bad thing - gosh, could it possibly be both?  Me, I think it could easily have been called "Be Glad if You're Not Single".

Also starring Dakota Johnson (last seen in "Fifty Shades of Grey"), Rebel Wilson (last seen in "Pitch Perfect 2"), Leslie Mann (last heard in "Mr. Peabody & Sherman"), Damon Wayans Jr. (last heard in "Big Hero 6"), Anders Holm (last seen in "The Intern"), Nicholas Braun (last seen in "The Perks of Being a Wallflower"), Jake Lacy, Colin Jost, Sarah Ramos.

RATING: 4 out of 10 fire escapes

No comments:

Post a Comment