A Cameron Crowe Film
My Rating:

Romantic zeitgeist comedy from the grungy Seattle era.
Add 1/4 star if the birthday you celebrate this year will be between your thirty-first and thirty-seventh, inclusive.
Add 1/4 star if you are a Seattleite and/or a grunge rocker (and if you are the latter, get with the times).

Bitable Bytes:
"Ten stars...!"
"...Reaching new depths...!"
"What a blessing...!"

What to do while watching:
It's an odd and subtle complex of emotions that comes while reminiscing nostalgically about a time that's only a decade past. You might pause the film to explore some of these feelings, or not.

What to eat while watching:

Ten stars is really the rating I wanted to give this viewing experience, but I didn't want to mislead you, my dear reader. Singles, a spirit-of-the-times film from the heart of 1992's Seattle boom, provided a fairly engaging focal point but didn't distract from cuddling with the Mrs. We curled into bed, put the television where we could see it, spooned and watched: a delicious escape together from what had been an intense week for both of us. Honestly, the movie could have been any piece of once-topical love-puffery, and I would have been no less happy just to share physical warmth on a cold night with my sweetie-kins.

Singles is set, as I've said, in Seattle. We see a good close-up of a Java machine and many interiors of coffeehouses. For those of you who missed the moment, Seattle owed some of its early 90's boom to the quality of its coffee. Seattle needs good coffee because it rains so much. My first impressions of the city were that it was wet and that everyone looked waterlogged. It's strange, therefore, that there is almost no moisture at all in this movie. I suppose all the action happens during the summer, including the month-long relationship recovery time that Linda (Kyra Sedgwick) endures, her month-long trip to Alaska, and the several weeks of hiatus in her love story with Steve. Presumably, the action in Singles begins on June 15th, the first sunny day of summer and ends on September 10th, the last sunny day before the rains return--in a drought year. Or maybe the movie was shot in Los Angeles with shots of the Seattle skyline clipped in just after the opening credits?

Not to nit-pick, but there are a few scenic gaps that, even contently snuggling the Mrs., didn't fail to raise my eyebrow. The soundtrack, for example, makes a significant show of representing the grunge movement. Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, Mudhoney and Paul Westerburg (post Replacements and done with intensity) convey the sound to a degree, but just as the rain is missing from the city of Seattle, so, too, is Nirvana, the grunge music definition, missing from Singles. (Nirvana's high-water mark, Nevermind, came out in 1991, by the way.)

All of this points to a half-hearted attempt to represent reality, and a larger focus on romantic comedy for romantic comedy's sake. In spite of the film's desire to catch the je ne sais qua of 30-somethings romance, its focus shifts to the comedic instead of the real. I couldn't at all relate to the exchange of garage-door openers as a sign of budding romance. I thought the mime was an inexpensive gag to include. And, strangely enough, I really kind of wanted more from the other characters in the movie who get created and clothed, but never fleshed out. Cliff (Matt Dillon) makes a decent character as the longhaired mediocre rocker, but we don't expect any depth from him. Bridget Fonda's character, Cliff's girlfriend who finds independence, travels a fairly easy arc with little resistance. Her biggest poser is whether or not to get a boob job. The redheaded woman has some funny moments that go nowhere, and the beatnik guy delivers bits of a monologue and then vanishes entirely from the film. Why put him in there in the first place?

Basically, what we're looking at here is a big piece of fluff chasing the tail of a time that has long since passed. I realize I'm being pretty negative, but I told you it was a hard week. If I'm reaching new depths of anger in this column, I will partially blame Singles for making it possible. What a blessing it would have been to see Antonia's Line instead!

If there is a saving grace to this film, it's the natural charm of its players and the appearance they give of caring about what they're doing. Their attempts are not half-hearted, and even where the acting is inconsistent, like when Campell Scott as Steve has a bit of a superficial breakdown, the devotion still seems whole-hearted. Anyway, I'm required to go easy on a film like this because I was there, man. I lived it! Really, though, if you can't cuddle with your honey while watching this, there's really no reason to see it.

Actually, I was in Portland in 1993, but it was very similar, I am told.

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For your collection: Singles (VHS), Singles (DVD).

Gooden's Listening to: Nirvana: Nevermind

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