One of the beautiful things about Say Anything (1989) is its innocence. You experience 19-year-old Lloyds jubilation and pain as he falls in love and enters a relationship for the first time. This freshness makes Lloyds actions and emotions ring true for many viewers. When a teenager goes to someones house and holds up a jukebox, its sweet. If a thirty-year-old shows up unannounced, its just stalking.
Three years later, Cameron Crowe tried desperately to make a movie that spoke to an older audience, late 20s and early 30s singles. However, despite dialogue that is painfully clever at times and dozens of topical cameos, Singles (1992) treads on stale ground. In this film about a group of single people in Seattle, the characters are either bland or unrealistic, and the scenes are familiar, but not in a "its funny cuz its true" kind of way. My mom got so bored with it after fifteen minutes that she left the room. Singles feels much longer than its 99-minute running time.
One of my biggest movie pet peeves is unrealistic dialogue. With a few exceptions, the conversations in Singles feel very forced, and the others try to make the mundane profound. I had the sense that Cameron Crowe really longed for people to go around quoting this movie. Garage door openers as a symbol of a committed relationship? OK, maybe but it reminded me of that part of Mean Girls when Gretchen attempts to make "fetch" the new hip word. All the scenes scream, "I really want to be insightful," but nearly all of the observations are common knowledge.
Does Cameron Crowe think portraying the telephone games people play is something new? Everyone knows that you cant call someone too soon after you get their number, but if you wait too long, they may have met someone else. In an even more blatant "duh!" moment, we see protagonist Steve (a completely forgettable Campbell Scott) thinking about basketball to try to last longer during sex. Seattle Supersonic Xavier McDaniels appearance in this reverie is supposed to be funny, but there are a dozen ways that another writer (Woody Allen, perhaps?) could have made this scene unique and hilarious.
Steve and his on-again, off-again girlfriend Linda (Kyra Sedgewick) are the every-couple of the '90s. They bond over their admiration of May This Be Love by Jimi Hendrix because, you know, liking Jimi is so unusual. Were supposed to root for these guys to stay together and make babies, but this couple is so boring that I really couldnt care less.
The one part of the movie I thought was mildly funny was when Debbie registers for a video dating service and she and her friends watch the tapes of some of her male suitors. As Im sure you can guess, they arent exactly the cream of the crop. However, if you want a really good look at the perils of personal ads, check out Next Stop Wonderland, which is ten times better than Singles.
Steves neighbors Cliff (Matt Dillon), a struggling musician in a band called Citizen Dick, and Janet (Bridget Fonda) are the other focus of Singles. Cliff is stupid and insensitive, but Janet is in love with him. A lot of people find Bridget Fonda annoying, but I think she's cute, and her character was one of the only ones I liked in this film. After Cliff responds, Sometimes to Janets asking if her breasts are too small, she is willing to go under the knife for him.
Most people watch Singles these days for the music. People who are nostalgic for the Seattle grunge scene will be thrilled with the rare footage of Alice in Chains and other alternative bands in their heyday. Eddie Vedder plays a member of Citizen Dick, and Chris Cornell (then of Soundgarden) is a friend. The soundtrack features songs by Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Mudhoney, Janes Addiction, the Pixies, REM, Alice in Chains, and, of course, Jimi Hendrix, the best Seattle has ever produced.
One final redeeming feature of Singles is that Jeremy Piven is brilliant, as always, in his one scene as a supermarket check-out clerk who recognizes Steve from parties that Steve used to DJ in college.
For me, Singles was a good laundry folding, free on-demand flick, but I would have been mighty disappointed if I had paid to rent it.
Viewing Format: VHS
Video Occasion: Better than Watching TV
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older
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