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Singles (Blu-ray Review)

20 Apr, 2015 By: Mike Clark

$19.98 Blu-ray
Rated ‘PG-13’ for language, sex related dialogue and scenes of sensuality.
Stars Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Matt Dillon.

Even some people who love Say Anything … (a 1989 success d’estime upon release) and 1996’s Jerry Maguire (critical/commercial smash from the get-go) may be unfamiliar with the easygoing charmer that writer-director Cameron Crowe sandwiched between them — and this even after Anything … eventually picked up a huge enough following in the home market to end up topping Entertainment Weekly’s list of the best romantic comedies from the preceding 25 years. Compared to these, Singles was and is a mild endeavor, yet its charm is tough to resist and (per usual with Crowe) the writing thoughtful.

Imagine a 99-minute episode of “Friends” set in Seattle, and you’ll have a bead on what gives: a breezy portrait of (well, yes) singles trying to find themselves without benefit off too much money, though somehow always living in more civilized apartments than the ones I was able to afford when starting out myself. Other than Matt Dillon, who always seems to find a feature director ready to utilize his surprisingly malleable acting persona, the cast is made up of actors who were around a lot at the time and seemed primed for bigger things in theatrical movies. In addition to a longhaired Dillon’s stitch of a turn as a grunge rocker almost certain to elude success, there’s Bridget Fonda (coffee shop waitress); a city engineer trying to get funding for his speed-train brainstorm (Campbell Scott); and the single who wonders if Scott is “the one” (Kyra Sedgwick). Rounding it out is a less prominent Sheila Kelley, who’s trying to be creative inspired constructing her own matchmaking video.

With segments divided into designated chapters and characters speaking into the camera as if they are chums with the audience, the whole thing ought to be too cute by half. Civility, though, counts for a lot — think how coarse even good modern-era comedies are from the past two decades — and for an observational writer, Crowe’s a good director of actors (not for nothing did he publish a coffee table interview book with Billy Wilder). The difference is that both the comic and dramatic scripts by Wilder and his collaborators always followed an intense story arc from A-to-Z, while this one is more of a mosaic. There are some privileged moments, though, and I especially love the one where Dillon’s collaborators try to sell him on the fantasy that a brief favorable aside about subsidiary members of Dillon’s rock group fully compensate for the devastating things a print review in a local underground has said about Dillon’s own singular lack of talent. The writer basically takes the POV that it’s common wisdom that Dillon is a blight on the entire community..

From what I understand, Fonda walked away from her movie career in the early 2000s to nurture what has been a happy marriage to Oingo Boingo front man and frequent Tim Burton composer Danny Elfman — the man who helped signal within its first two minutes that Pee-wee’s Big Adventure was going to be a good movie. Good for her, but she is missed, and Fonda anchors the funny part of the story as well as future Emmy winner Sedgwick (an actress the camera doesn’t love as much) does the serious parts. And being a Crowe movie, the music is as true to the time as the gadgets and fashion choices here; in fact, this is one of those pictures where the Seattle-heavy soundtrack album made more of a dent on the public consciousness than what was on screen. It’s good, though, to see the movie out on Blu-ray — certainly the choice cut in a combo Warner Blu-ray release of period “youth” comedies whose target demographics will soon enough be at least reading up on knee replacements (the releases are Empire Records and Detroit Rock City).

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