Singles (1992), or Hey, You Look Familiar! Are You In Soundgarden?

25 01 2009
Every time I see this poster, my eyes lock on Matt Dillons string-bean legs!

Every time I see this poster, my eyes lock on Matt Dillon's string-bean legs!

90’s Week continues, everyone! The week where I dig out the best and worst the decade has to offer. Today we take a trip to the heart of Generation X. Today we bust straight into the soul of Seattle like a homemade shank on a prison hit’s jugular vein. Today I present Singles.

Hey, remember the grunge era? Remember when bands like Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Mudhoney, and that other band Dave Grohl used to drum for pumped out songs on the radio that people actually cared about? Songs that were about fierce independence and unwillingness to be sold out to the highest bidder? When bands had something more to say than “buy my T-shirt”? When music felt like it could change the world all over again in the face of mass consumerism, greed, and social tyranny? No, you don’t remember any of that? Well, it was probably before your time. But still, it happened. The early 90’s were a great time for music, art, and culture. Singles, however, is a veiled Trojan horse for the scene it portrays. Because within this film made at the height of the grunge movement are the seeds of that scene’s destruction.

Singles is a romantic comedy centered around the lives of a few young Seattlans (I’ve checked. That is how you describe people from Seattle) mostly living in the same apartment complex. Janet Livermore is the lovestruck neighbor of Cliff, a grunge rocker who is barely there as a human being. He is aloof to everyone, but that doesn’t seem to phase Janet. She tries her damndest amidst his wild partying and philandering ways. Meanwhile, Linda is a good girl who has her act together but has terrible luck with men. They’re always loving then leaving. But right when she isn’t looking for anything, Steve comes along. They are perfect for each other because they are both emotionally difficult and they both have friends that give them lackluster romantic advice. They go back and forth a lot. Will anyone in this town find love? And if they do, will it be with the right person?

This being a romantic comedy, there isn’t much plot, and that’s fine as long as there’s substance to all the dialog being dished out. The problem is that there isn’t much of either of those. These people have very little substance to them at all. I do not feel much of anything for these people. Worse yet, I think this was probably a very realistic mirror by director Cameron Crowe towards Generation X. And that is why I think the grunge revolution failed. Their movement had no substance. Inside, many of these poets and rockers were empty consumers who were only against selling out as long as it did not mean that they would go hungry. It is a sad thing to say for me, being a big fan of grunge as far back as Mother Love Bone and Mudhoney, but many of the people who inherited the music from these bands lost sight of what it was they were doing. That is why grunge is dead and that is why Fall Out Boy runs rampant through the streets like a hundred-ton ten-headed mongrel. Thanks, guys!

Hey, Eric! This is a movie site! Not a fucking music lamentation thread! Get your head out of your ass! Well, rude gentleman I made up for the sake of refutation, there is a point to all this. Because this is one of the few movies where the soundtrack is more famous than the actual movie. Everyone is on this thing: Pearl Jam, Smashing Pumpkins, Mudhoney, Paul Westerburg of The Replacements, The Screaming Trees; everybody! It’s a great soundtrack, and I recommend giving it a listen.

And if that’s not enough, there are cameos out the wazoo! Soundgarden and Alice In Chains both play as themselves on stage! Cliff the rocker has a band called Citizen Dick which is actually just Pearl Jam! Tim Burton in a rare on-screen appearance as a counter clerk! Eric Stoltz as a mime who talks! Loudly! It’s pretty fun.

But that really doesn’t save the movie that much. Cameron Crowe still had a lot to learn about screenwriting back then, not to mention pacing. As an artist, he has grown since, but this is by no means a highlight. I still appreciate his musical taste, though, so feel free to send me a mix tape in the mail, Cameron! The actors put in very little, but I am not sure whether that was grunge ennui or lack of interest with the characters, so that one is a gimme. It just seems like people were so concerned with being cool, that they forgot to be good. Kyra Sedgwick, or Linda in the movie, in particular never seems to act in anything. She just struts her sickly skinny posterior into a movie and hope that nobody notices she’s just a defective Julia Roberts clone.

So if you are a die-hard fan of the grunge era and the Seattle music and culture scene, give this one a whirl. Although if you are I’m sure you’ve seen it by now, so forget it. Romantic comedy fans might also give this one a chance, but this is not even very good at that. I do not put much stock into this movie. I think it is vapid and shallow, and the stupid, stupid smart hipster people in this movie remind me a lot of Twilight without the vampires or the skinny jeans. I cannot relate to this culture any more than I can relate to people nowadays, so maybe things haven’t changed much. But at least this one has fun cameos to look out for, while Twilight only had the end credits to look out for (burn!). I give Singles 5 1/2 loudmouth mimes out of 10!

See you tomorrow, where we take a break from 90’s Week and go out to see Revolutionary Road! A bona-fide Oscar nominee. Oooohhhh!