How to be Single: Movie Man Jackson

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Did Hollywood really need to make a movie about How to Be Single? They could have just came to me! In modern day New York City, finding companionship is hard. After four years of being in a college relationship, Alice (Dakota Johnson) feels the need to break up with her boyfriend, Josh (Nicholas Braun) upon graduation—temporarily. Her reason, being, that she needs to figure out some things in the Big Apple. Her paralegal job introduces her to a new friend named Robin (Rebel Wilson), who has no problems being a single lady.

Alice’s older sister Meg (Leslie Mann), also single, is all about her career as a doctor, having no desire to conform to society’s idea of having offspring at a certain age. But, she does begin to get an itch to have a baby after a routine patient delivery. And even Lucy (Alison Brie), a person who makes dating apps, has issues with finding a companion. Being single can be tough, but it also can be very eye-opening.

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Yours truly probably isn’t in the target demographic that How to Be Single, a film based off of a novel with the same name, is aiming to hit. It kind of feels like a prolonged episode of Sex in the City. Its release comes at a good time, with it being Valentine’s Day weekend, drawing in people that might latch on to it who are single simply because of its title. It’s an average ensemble piece rom-com that has similar issues to most rom-coms, with the occasional solid positive here and there.

Let’s start with some of the positives. It really isn’t saying much, but How to Be Single does feature a little more substance than many other ensemble romance-comedies. A high-brow analysis this isn’t, but it is a fairly interesting look at being single featuring a whole cast of characters who are single, instead of just the one story thread that often appears in these types of movies amid others. Although featuring many characters, the story connector is the same and makes it easy to follow along. Also, though an African-American male and not a Caucasian female (last time checked at least), still being currently single and around the general age of the lead characters, I can connect somewhat to what the main characters experience. Very possible that point alone plays into the fact of me finding some enjoyment in this.

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Directing-wise, this isn’t too bad either.  Christian Ditter brings some energy and some mild flair behind the camera with some nice lighting and solid song choices that match the story. Generally, he’s able to keep the movie moving at a solid pace, though at times, his reliance to jump ahead in time for a few months comes at the expense of character and true relationship development.

And honestly, it is the characters that How to Be Single gets mostly wrong. For a movie whose story seems to be pretty focused on reality and finding love in the 21st century, it’s odd as to why the characters could not be written with more layers. The obvious person that comes to mind first is Rebel Wilson, basically being Rebel Wilson throughout. If you find her funny, HtBS is going to be a riot. If not (like yours truly), this can be a chore sometimes as the comedy with her at the forefront never really lands.

Dakota Johnson is a fine actress, but it is hard to really feel anything for her Alice as she repeatedly makes the same mistakes. I understand that that is sort of the point, but her eventual awakening feels more predetermined, rather than earned. It sort of works, but it doesn’t hit emotionally as intended. The women aren’t the only ones who can feel fake. The lead male, Tom, played by Anders Holm, is just way too cartoonish to take seriously.

There’s a missed opportunity for Alison Brie, who appears in the marketing substantially but is clearly the fourth wheel after things get going. She’s off her kilter a tad too much and not exactly grounded, but kind of representative of some people finding love online nowadays. Leslie Mann’s character storyline is probably the most fulfilling, though her character can be a bit much with her “freneticness” and such.

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Credit where credit’s due. How to Be Single gets a rose or two for not being completely predictable, having a semi-interesting story about the difficulties of love, and subverting a few rom-com staples. However, it falls short of getting a full bouquet due to a majority of the cast of of characters showing why they deserve to be single.

Grade: C

Photo credits go to moviefone.com, YouTube.com, and aroundmovies.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson

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Carol: Movie Man Jackson

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Sparks always fly at the toy store. Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara) is a young department store clerk, working in 1950’s Manhattan, New York. She has a steady boyfriend, Richard (Jake Lacy), who so desperately wants to vacation out to Europe and make Therese his wife. While flattered, Therese desires more and isn’t ready to commit to Rich yet, and still harbors dreams of being a photographer.

One day at the store, she meets Carol Aird (Cate Blanchett), a well-off and elegant woman who has an aura about her that is impossible to resist. Immediately, a connection is born, and the two become inseparable. Complicating matters are Carol’s husband and reluctant divorcee Harge (Kyle Chandler), and their battle over custody of their child. But, love finds a way, right?

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As Keith over at Keith & the Movies opined, from the get-go, Carol is a movie that simply looks polished and primed for awards time. Obviously, this piece is coming days after Carol was shut out of the Golden Globes, but five nominations, even without one win, still means that Carol did its job. Did it do its job in making yours truly care about it? I wish I could say yes.

At the very least, Carol comes outfitted with great and workmanlike acting from the two co-leads, which is to be expected with Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett. The two play well off of each other, feel believable as character polar opposites, and are extremely brave and fully committed to their roles. It’s hard to find anything to have real gripes with, and if either receive Oscar noms (Editor’s note: Both have), they would be earned.

If one looked to be a stronger lock than the other for their nominated category, I’d say Blanchett has the stronger case. Her character is not only the obvious title of the movie, but she does bring a mysterious magnetism to her that makes Mara dull by comparison. But I suppose that is the point, though I believe Cate would be harder to replace in her role than Rooney. Sarah Paulson also does well, and though Kyle Chandler is awfully one-note, he does the best he can with what is given. The only weak link happens to be Jake Lacy. For some reason, it is hard for me not to see him still as Plop from season nine of The Office.

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Carol does have good, but unmemorable directorial style. Directed by Todd Haynes (I’m Not There), it certainly resembles the early 50’s, from dress to the way subjects look in lighting, as the movie has got that 50’s light jazz club fuzzy haze throughout. Sadly, what it doesn’t have is a story that yours truly ever really cared about.

About 20 minutes in, I couldn’t stop thinking about Brooklyn when watching Carol. Both rely on simplicity and elegance, but only the former also achieves with actual story drama and tension, to go with characters who are written well. As well as Mara and Blanchett are, there’s little desire to see where their connection goes, or even if it will remain. Their stakes never feel that high, and something tangible never truly felt like it was on the line. The B (not so much side) stories with the custody, aunt, etc., unfortunately did little to capture the attention, or round out the leading ladies.

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I really did want to like Carol, and there are pieces of it that absolutely work, namely, the performances. But, as runtime wore on, it became a exercise in viewing nothingness, one that I struggle to find the words for and care less about doing so.

Grade: C-

Photo credits go to hypable.com, fashiongonerogue.com, and elle.com.

Follow the Movie Man @MovieManJackson