The Throwback: Cameron Crowe’s 'Singles'
December 29th, 2011
02:03 PM ET

The Throwback: Cameron Crowe’s 'Singles'

Writer/director Cameron Crowe's latest effort, "We Bought A Zoo," is in theaters now, but my favorite film of his has always been one of his earliest: the seminal Gen X comedy “Singles."

Crowe’s films are distinct not because of a unique visual style, but because they’re all journeys of human emotion. (That, and his movies always have the best soundtracks.)

When "Singles," the second film he directed, was released in September of 1992, it made a huge impact on me. Although I was a kid at the time, even now I can see how well it's held up over the years.

Crowe made “Singles” after the teen classic “Say Anything” and before Academy Award nominee “Jerry Maguire.” It may have been overshadowed by those achievements, but “Singles” is the kind of grounded romantic comedy that almost never gets made anymore.

It's mercifully devoid of an uptight, desperate female protagonist who must choose between love and career. The plot follows the residents of one apartment building as they navigate life and love in the Seattle grunge scene. The cast boasted some of the hottest young stars of the moment, including Bridget Fonda as Janet and Matt Dillon as Cliff.

Janet has always been my favorite character, and her story of self-actualization feels honest. Only 23 and madly in love with Cliff, her naive devotion to a guy who openly admits he’s seeing other girls is embarrassingly realistic. She even considers getting breast implants because she thinks he’ll like her more if she looks like the girls pinned up on his wall.

When it finally dawns on her that she “could just break up with him,” she not only moves on, but realizes her dream of going to school for architecture. By the time Cliff declares, “Janet, you rock my world,” we understand why.

In the final scene, we hear Cliff ask Janet, “Does everybody go through this?” She responds, “No, I think just us.” It's a perspective the audience can relate to, as we all go through the same process of growing up, each feeling as though we’re the first person to stumble through life, learning from our mistakes and slowly evolving into who we want to be. Now that I’m the same age as the characters, their stories resonate in ways I couldn’t have fathomed while watching as a kid.

And if “Almost Famous” is Crowe’s love letter to rock and roll, “Singles” is the origami fortune teller he passed to the genre in grammar school. Alt-rock hero Paul Westerberg compiled the soundtrack, and Cliff dreams of making it big with his band Citizen Dick, which is comprised of three members of Pearl Jam - including Eddie Vedder as the drummer.

(“Singles” was also Crowe’s first collaboration with Pearl Jam; his documentary “Pearl Jam Twenty” aired on PBS earlier this year.)

If you pick it up for a repeat (or initial) viewing, you'll notice that the most dated thing about “Singles” isn’t the fashion (combat boots and flannel shirts? Totally en vogue), but the technology. For example, when wacky neighbor Debbie joins a video dating service, she crafts a VHS tape that's hilariously cheesy. Funnily enough, it also foreshadows the no-less-absurd meticulous profile cultivation of Internet dating sites.

Do you have any memories of “Singles”? And what’s your favorite Cameron Crowe film?

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Filed under: movies • The Throwback

soundoff (18 Responses)
  1. ben paulsen

    Will this come in 3D? I miss comedy and romantic movies in 3D. With 3D you come a lot closer to the actors and the story. After i found out i could play 3D movies on my iPad, i prefer 3D movies.

    Do you know of any 3D comedies or romantic movies?

    January 5, 2012 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  2. Brenda

    I was in college when this came out and I recall how everyone thought "Reality Bites" defined Gen X. But, really, I always thought it was "Singles." One of the best soundtracks, ever!

    January 1, 2012 at 10:15 am | Report abuse |
  3. Brett

    This is a favorite movie of mine, AND I was actually an extra in the movie in two scenes. It was fun being on the movie set, and hanging out there for the day seeing how it all works.

    December 31, 2011 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Geo

    Second movie? Dude needs to do some research. You figure there would be some fact checking on something they'd post on CNN. Fast Times anyone? It's what made Cameron.....

    December 30, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joanne

      Singles is the second movie he directed. He only wrote Fast Times. Singles is my favorite of all his movies. I used to watch it over and over when I was 18.

      January 1, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
  5. OCDlove is too good for Portland

    Rocking Portland is about as cool as rocking Des Moines. Unless it's the Roseland or better, it ain't rockin. We are 'Rocked" enough by below average bands. I truly hope yours does not suck. Tired of going out to shows anymore. The only good band I saw here is OCDlove. Period. Well, there was this other band, but they broke up...Everclear....MAYBE Sleater Kinney

    December 30, 2011 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Observer

    Mary –
    A very well written esay. I've not seen the film, but I think now I just may. Thanks for writing it.

    December 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. shannon

    this weekend, we ROCK portland!!!

    December 30, 2011 at 10:25 am | Report abuse |
  8. Jenna

    I saw the film at the Boston Film Festival in 1992, where Cameron Crowe appeared and discussed the film and answered questions. I love Pearl Jam..then I loved this movie. I still do.

    December 30, 2011 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
  9. Marla

    Singles was one of the best movies of the 90's. It does what few movies have done since and that is to tell a full story from beginning to end, with detailed character development, a well written script and an excellent group of actors. It's about the human relationship, a very important thing. I'm going to rent it this week. Thank you for writing this article.

    December 30, 2011 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  10. Fixer2010

    My favorite, by far, is Singles! The cast, the concept, and the music were all fantastic!

    December 30, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. LynneC

    Thank you!! My sister and I still call moments of realization "Bridget Fonda moments", based on when Janet decideds she can "just break up with him". This movie is beloved in Belgium.

    December 30, 2011 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  12. madhater


    December 29, 2011 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Chrisa

    Singles is definitely one of Crowe's best, and as others have said, the soundtrack absolutely rocks. Say Anything will always be my favorite though.

    December 29, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sara

    It came out the year I graduated from college, and had just broken up with the guy I dated for the last 4 years. I was a "single, I was 22, and I LOVED this movie. A few years later my Mom moved to Seattle and I was thrilled–I just knew I was going to have a life exactly like Kyra Sedgwick's in Singles. 🙂 GREAT movie, GREAT music.

    December 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Colleen

    Thanks for the memories, one of my favorite movies the THE BEST SOUNDTRACK EVER, must rent again soon, thanks again & happy new year!

    December 29, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Triumph

    Thank you Mary Cella for your thoughts on a movie that came out 20 years ago. I think your story is quite good....

    December 29, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Carrie

    Well I love all his movies. I grew up watching Say Anything and it is still in my top 10 today. I was 14 or 15 when Singles came out and I was all into the grunge thing. Listing to Alice in Chains and going to every Lolapaloza. It really did fit the times. Next is Almost Famous. Love that one too. I always thought it would have been cool to grow up in the 60's or early 70's because the music was great. So I love them all and can not decide on one.

    December 29, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |

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