A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that How to Be Single is a comedy about friendship and romance with fairly mature themes that are a better fit for older teens and up. Plus, there's tons of sex, swearing, and drinking. Expect a lot of innuendo, as well as many scenes that show men and women hooking up, though nudity is limited to a shot of a man's naked backside. Language is strong and frequent ("f--k," "s--t," and more), and characters drink to the point of blacking out and forgetting that they'd slept with someone the night before.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
On the eve of her graduation from Wesleyan University, Alice Kepley (Dakota Johnson) decides it's as good a time as any to break up with her boyfriend, Josh (Nicholas Braun). She's never been alone before and thinks it's time she figured out who she really is outside of a relationship. And Alice does just that when she moves to New York City to start her new job as a paralegal, where she meets free-spirited co-worker Robin (Rebel Wilson), who tells Alice that being single means having the freedom to sleep with whoever she chooses, whenever she chooses. It's a credo Alice embraces -- but life, as it often does, shows her that figuring things out is far more complicated than she expected. Meanwhile, Alice's older sister, Meg (Leslie Mann), a busy doctor, is convinced that she's meant to be alone forever, until she meets a mother whose baby awakens a yearning for a child in her. And Lucy (Alison Brie), who's tangentially in Alice's orbit, thinks she has the perfect algorithm to finding her soulmate -- or does she?
Is it any good?
If it's possible to be annoyed and enchanted by a movie at the same time, HOW TO BE SINGLE fits the bill. Refreshingly frank and empowering but also annoyingly messy and predictable, this comedy about friendship and romance is simultaneously cliched, thought-provoking, and charming -- the latter largely thanks to star Johnson and a supporting cast that, for the most part, persuades with their zeal and humor.
But a complaint: While Wilson's storyline eventually ends on a funny twist, it's tiresome to see her play -- however ably -- the same role over and over again. A speech to a friend about not being shunted to the side for a relationship feels inauthentic and tacked on, written to wrap up loose ends rather than actually being the true center of a movie that dares to explore that tension. And though Brie's a very talented actress, her character, Lucy, who's overly focused on finding Mr. Right, feels like she belongs in a different movie altogether, one with a more traditional (and frankly boring) trajectory.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what How to Be Single is saying about being in a relationship. Is it better to be in a relationship than to be single? Does the film support or challenge this idea?
What role does sex play in the movie? What does it mean to the characters? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
How is this movie similar to, and different from, typical romantic comedies?
- In theaters: February 12, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: May 24, 2016
- Cast: Dakota Johnson, Rebel Wilson, Alison Brie, Leslie Mann
- Director: Christian Ditter
- Studio: New Line Cinema
- Genre: Comedy
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 110 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content and strong language throughout
- Last updated: January 25, 2021
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