Break-ups affect us all differently. Some of us use our new sense of freedom as a way to sleep with as many people as possible, while others focus on parts of their lives that they felt were ignored while in the relationship. We either learn from the experience and move on or become blindly bitter and unpleasant to everyone around us. Every break-up is undoubtedly different, but that doesn’t necessarily mean every one of them is worth discussing. Unless the people and circumstances involved are really interesting, it’s not worth talking about at all. Actor/writer/director Adam Christian Clark hammers this point home with Newly Single.
Clark plays Astor, an arrogant, narcissistic indie filmmaker who just broke up with his girlfriend and finds himself on a string of frivolous dates.
And that’s it. Nothing happens. He walks around talking to everybody in a condescending monotone style. He’s not likable and the other characters barely get enough screen time to make an impact. You start with an asshole; you end with an asshole. No arc, no charisma, just a despicable person and several failed attempts at cringe humor.
“…an arrogant, narcissistic indie filmmaker who just broke up with his girlfriend…”
Apparently, Clark wants to be a cross between Woody Allen and Lena Dunham but fails to conjure either one. Simply placing all the credits at the beginning like a ‘70s film, adding a jazz soundtrack and fumbling through uncomfortable conversations does not make you Woody Allen. Sure, Allen plays neurotic assholes, but they’re likable assholes. They have enough charisma and charm to make you root for them despite all their issues. Similarly, Lena Dunham portrays extremely unlikeable, vapid characters, but balances them with likable characters who point out the shortcomings of their counterparts. Though her characters can be infuriatingly clueless, they learn lessons and get stung because they are fragile beneath their hollow shells. Conversely, Astor talks down to everyone, says awful things and has some undeveloped survivalist streak, but never reveals the slightest bit of vulnerability that would make us identify with the persona he created. He’s just not interesting, and for that reason, the film fails.
That said, the other performances are strong. These actors are obviously giving 100%, but they have so little to go on that their characters never fully come to fruition. Rather than bloom into fully-realized people, they bud as one-dimensional caricatures built on a single quirk. We never really get to know them, and the talent is just wasted.
“…they need enough personality to make you want to dedicate 90 to 100 minutes of your life to them.”
Technically, Clark knows how to set up shots for aesthetic value, but then he lingers on those shots until they become irritatingly tedious. Entire scenes play out from one single static camera angle. Characters exit the frame and return, and the camera hasn’t moved. Even worse, there’s nothing to see. They’re well-composed shots, but not so beautiful that you want to stare at them for five minutes. Ultimately, it’s visually stagnant and boring.
Protagonists don’t have to be likable, they need enough personality to make you want to dedicate 90 to 100 minutes of your life to them. Otherwise, you’re stuck in a box with someone you despise and wanting it to be over sooner than later. That’s the experience of watching Newly Single. Sadly, what could have been the next Tiny Furniture gets so wrapped up in its own narcissism that it falls flat with a dull thud.
Newly Single (2018) Directed by Adam Christian Clark. Written by Adam Christian Clark. Starring Adam Christian Clark, Jennifer Kim, Molly C. Quinn, Greg Gilreath, Anna Jacoby-Heron and Rémy Bennett.
2 out of 10 stars
Enjoy these clips from the film.