No matter how much I wanted to like “Singles,” I can’t help but feel like it’s the cinematic equivalent of someone’s “you had to be there” story. Ostensibly about the love lives of a loose group of neighbors in the same Seattle apartment building, this could have been an extraordinary blend of “Reality Bites” and “Melrose Place”: Like “Reality Bites,” “Singles” is soaked in grunge-era and the self-imposed romantic tribulations of Gen X’ers, and there’s the “Melrose Place”-like setting that lends a certain poignancy to the specific time in a person’s life when their friends are their family. But the finished product is just so, so phony. There are two major problems, the first being the acting. Despite a cast that includes dependable performers like Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott and Kyra Sedgwick, not a single line or interaction among the characters sounds authentic or genuine. There’s zero chemistry among the ensemble cast, which neutralizes the movie’s central theme of friendship because we can’t imagine any of these people wanting to spend even a minute longer with each other than they have to. Additionally, the characters are just the absolute worst, the kind of people who say the opposite of what they mean and want, then complain that they don’t have anything they want in their lives, repeated ad nauseum. The idea seems to be that folks need to learn to communicate well with each other, but it’s tacked on at the end like an afterthought, while the majority of the narrative is divided between insincere vignettes and live performances of grunge music (which all sounds the same to me, frankly). I wouldn’t say it’s a total wash, but it’s certainly nothing special, and given writer-director Cameron Crowe’s usual pedigree, it should be a lot better than just OK. I don’t do half-stars and it’s closer to a three than a two, but it’s awfully close.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)