After a string of disheartening rom-coms, I really thought Better Off Single was going to cheer me up. It had a few good laughs out of the gate, and it was neat to see what Aaron Tveit could do with a sadsack role after wowing audiences in FOX’s Grease LIVE! as T-Bird Danny Zuko. Unfortunately, writer/director Benjamin Cox provides an excitable energy that becomes the film’s worst enemy.
With slapdash writing and abrupt editing, Better Off Single is a rigid film. Cox’s movie about a miserable romantic is inconsistent, which is okay since it matches the unpredictable tone of Tveit’s emotionally surrendered character who is having to accept whatever life throws at him. What’s problematic is the film’s overall impatience towards its own material; it can’t wait to tell a joke. Instead of having a scene build towards a punchline, Cox cuts away to perform a bit that’s either been improperly rehearsed or structured like an in-joke. This ends up weakening the script’s more absurd material, such as a special habitat for bankers, an infomercial for a stroller with an ashtray enhancement, slow-motion insanity set to classical music, and plenty of blunt dialogue spoken by actors who are unsure of the filmmaker’s ambition (including Kal Penn, Chris Elliott, and Jason Jones). Penn, in particular, halfheartedly commits to a scuzzy scene where he describes how to pick up an unassuming chick at a bar. The exchange makes our skin crawl, and I think the Harold and Kumar star knows it.
Before its laborious credit crawl and its slew of pointless credit cookies that include incoherent bloopers and static alternate takes, Better Off Single punches out at 71-minutes. That’s way too short for a film that could’ve afforded to linger longer and offer its key players time to establish relationships and amusing banter. Even Lewis Black, who plays the funniest role in the film as a therapist breaking up with his client, is underused. I would’ve loved to have seen his conflicted character receive more screen time. Hell, let’s cut to the chase and say it aloud in our best Lewis Black impression: Benjamin Cox’s next project should be a spinoff about that troubled therapist!
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie