Single and sizzling in this refreshing comedy about relationships

Dakota Johnson (left) and Rebel Wilson, who play good friends, share strong chemistry on screen.
Dakota Johnson (left) and Rebel Wilson, who play good friends, share strong chemistry on screen.PHOTO: WARNER BROS PICTURES

REVIEW / COMEDY ROMANCE

HOW TO BE SINGLE (NC16)

110 minutes/Now showing/3/5 stars

The story: Alice (Dakota Johnson) breaks up with her long-time boyfriend and moves to New York City to live with her sister Meg (Leslie Mann). At work, she meets her wild child colleague Robin (Rebel Wilson), who introduces her to the complex dating rituals of single women in the Big Apple.

Once upon a time, TV series Sex And The City was considered an edgy romantic comedy.

Unlike the typical romantic comedy that came before it - you know, the ones where girl meets boy, girl falls in love with boy and girl marries boy - the show featured smart, successful women who lapped up being single and talked openly about sex and men.

But anyone who saw to the end of the series will know that ultimately, it still fell into the trap of romantic comedy traditionalism: The girls were happy only because they ended up with their Prince Charmings.

This is the same treatment given to most trendy romantic comedies that came after the show, no matter how independent or confident the leading ladies appeared to be. Apparently, it is crucial that women on screen eventually find partners following their frivolous partying, or they risk being seen as social pariahs.

So it is refreshing that new movie How To Be Single is, for once, truly comfortable with the notion that women need not be paired off to lead fulfilling lives.

Comedy It-girl Rebel Wilson's character Robin, in particular, is unapologetic about sleeping her way through New York City without any form of long-term commitment.

Her biggest insecurity comes not from the lack of a boyfriend or husband, but the fact that she is forgotten by her close group of girlfriends as soon as they encounter new men in their lives.

It is one of several ideas in the film that remain true to the dynamics of real-life female friendships - and with the strong chemistry among all the actresses here, it is utterly believable that this group of women could actually be friends off screen.

Dakota Johnson's lead character Alice, who is suddenly single after a long relationship, also goes on her own journey of discovering that doing things on her own hardly signifies the end of the world.

But the movie is not some angry pseudo-feminist statement that says women should only ever rely on themselves, either.

Some of the girls in the movie after all, such as the doe-eyed Lucy (Alison Brie), are open and eager to find romantic love. In a nod to the digital age where everyone is glued to the Internet, she heads to a bar to find dates - ironically not in the crowd but on a dating website on her laptop.

The film simply champions the thought that a woman can feel truly content, no matter her marital status.

This, despite the uneven comedy and the thin characterisations of supporting players here (actor Damon Wayans Jr's part as Alice's rich single dad friend could be edited out), is a message worth looking at.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'Single and sizzling in this refreshing comedy about relationships'. Print Edition | Subscribe