Forgotten Classics: Singles (1992)


Struggling for something to watch I stare at my DVD wall like most, I assume, peruse their Netflix que.  I have a leg up on those people though… I only have to read through titles of movies I actually WANT to watch.  Of course, with a library verging on over 500 films and TV seris, it’s still no easy feat.  Some movies remain untouched for years.  Such is the case for this early 90’s gem: Singles.

Cameron Crowe won me over with his directorial debut, a movie that still hangs in my top 3 of all time, Say Anything.  His characters seemed so genuine and authentic with darkness as well as honesty in their hearts.  They could use and scheme as well as save and love and you couldn’t help but want to be friends with them in real life.  Crowe’s sophomore effort had characters that shared some of those qualities but also circled the clichéd drain.  One of the more memorable characters, played by the always fantastic Matt Dillon, Cliff struggled between 90’s slacker, legitimate rocker and prince charming.  He had an effervescent charm but lacked the integrity that made the 90’s rock stars so credible.  His interview in the beginning of the film where he described what his songs meant solidified the affable personality he portrayed but made him less suitable to be held in high regard for his art and less likeable, ultimately, as a suitor for the ever amazing Bridget Fonda.  I know women who cheered her when she came to realize that Cliff was no good for her and cut him off completely – only to ruin the one brilliant move her character makes when she (spoilers) kisses him in the end for displaying a simple common courtesy.


Re-watching this movie made me miss the heck out of having Bridget Fonda in our movie watching lives.  She could play innocent with a wicked side so well!  Her character, Janet, seemed to glide through each scene effortlessly (and sometimes pointlessly) until it mattered.  She was able to bring a legend in his own mind, Cliff, to his knees, begging to get her back, she talked Steve down from the proverbial professional ledge after his “super train” dies and she does it all with a smile on her face and a kick in her step.  A far cry from the original outing with her grappling with the idea of enhancing her bosom to keep Cliff’s gaze from wandering.


Cambell Scott’s Steve Dunn is the main character, if there is any, in this narrative and he captures the easy-going spirit of the twenty something in the verging 90’s.  Sharing time between trying to find love and elevating his career while retaining his youthful college habits of clubbing and enjoying the music culture, Steve is the everyman.  His stoic delivery of perfect quips and reflective responses almost clash with the chaotic sense of this movie.  Even when his life is falling apart he seems to do what is expected rather than make a surprising recovery.  He’s routine and comfortable – a watered down version of Lloyd Dobbler.  Steve is so easy it’s sort of a wonder why Linda, Kyra Sedgwick’s character, falls for him so madly that they pine for each other for half the movie.

I say all these things, not out of bitterness for a dated movie, but because each character should be doing more, and they are all so likable in their own way you want them to succeed.  They are your friends who you can’t be completely truthful with as to save their feelings and dash their dreams.  Even Debbie Hunt is that manic friend you love to watch go through the rabbit hole of whatever drama she is playing out that week.  In the back drop of the dreary Seattle scene on the verge of busting out some of the most influential rockers of the time the movie seems to be more of a time capsule than a film.  One that I would revisit anytime, though.  It comforts you in a way that romantic comedies are not interested in portraying these days.  While raunch and improvised lines are the go to style now, this movie is a reminder on just how good storytelling can be, drawing you into each characters lives, without making them seem outlandish and over the top.


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