Singles Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 1997

I've been burned by this train business before... people love their cars.

This 1992 film, directed by Cameron Crowe, was touted as a movie about the Seattle Grunge scene. It follows the lives of several singles in Seattle, all living in the same apartment complex (kind of like "Melrose Place"). From the moment you see the introspective soliloquies, with the characters speaking directly to the camera, you can tell that this is a movie that doesn't take itself too seriously. Though it is uneven in tone (especially the stilted dialogue in certain scenes-- the foreign student from Spain is a good example), it does have enough going for it to make it worth while, such as the affecting performances by Campbell Scott and Kyra Sedgwick.

You have Steve (Campbell Scott), who works for the Department of Transport, and deals with trying to solve the deadlock on the highways (look, a metaphor for emotional paralysis!). He is trying to push through his idea for a Supertrain, that will get people out of their cars, and hence clear up the congestion on the roadways.

Better to be the dumper than the dumpee.

Linda (Kyra Sedgwick) works for environmental lobbyists, who loves control in her life yet paradoxically wants to give it up (garage door openers serve as a blatant metaphor for this in the first half of the film). And like her state of moral contradiction, she drives a gas-guzzling land yacht inherited from her father and tells Steve "But I still love my car."

Cliff (Matt Dillon) is a grunge musician who is the antithesis of the perfect boyfriend and Janet (Bridget Fonda) is the woman who lives upstairs and is in love with him. Debbie (Sheila Kelley) is an advertising executive who has a free video-dating subscription to use up to find the perfect man.

This film deals with many themes. One recurring one is that each character has an act for the express purpose of fooling others or themselves to maintain a sense of detachment from the isolation they feel. When Steve meets Linda for the first time in a bar, he tells her that he decided to approach her and be himself, without relying on an 'act'. Linda retorts with the speculation that his 'act' is 'not having an act'. Janet deludes herself into believing that Cliff is her boyfriend and that he loves her, even though Cliff says that he sees other people straight to her face. Janet then decides it is in her best interest to get breast implants, because that is what she feels is needed to be "Miss Right" for Cliff. In a hilarious video sequence, Debbie uses bizarre imagery in her cheesy dating video to find the perfect man.

I'm glad your lunch date didn't show up.
Me too.
Did you really have a lunch date?

Another topic dealt with in "Singles" are the rituals of single life. Who calls who first? How many days do you wait before you call? Who acknowledges each phase of the relationship and when? When do you let yourself go and when do you play cool? These are the questions that the characters soul-search about. When Cliff doesn't show up at Janet's place one lonely Saturday night, she begins to play emotional games in order to decide what to do (if she sinks a basket, she'll call him... no, make it two out of three... and so on).

In terms of film-making techniques, there is an abundance of the MTV-school-of-film-making, from the over-the-shoulder-tripodless-in-your-face-documentary-look to the slo-mo tracking shots set to alternative music. To convey the sense of loneliness that these characters feel, Crowe uses a preponderance of one-shots-- shots where only one character is on the screen.

I don't want to be your girlfriend... I just want to know you again.
What took you so long?
I was stuck in traffic.

All in all, "Singles" is a worthwhile film, filled with interesting bits of exposition on single life, and also watch out for Eric Stoltz as the mime who speaks, and Ally Walker ("Profiler") as Debbie's roommate. And stick around after the credits for two deleted scenes-- a cheesy scene where magazines at a newsstand are 'talking' to Steve and a spoof of subtitled-French-films.

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