“Seriously Single” is a seriously inconsequential Buppie rom-com from South Africa, a movie with a few laughs, lots of wigs and costume changes and little else.
But it’s very existence makes it another movie that points to the massive footprint Netflix is establishing in international cinema. It’s lame in a lot of perfectly conventional ways. In the U.S. this story of a Black woman desperate to not be alone, and to get married, and learning to see that trait in guys she’s dating, would be set in Atlanta and might very well have Tyler Perry’s name attached to it.
Beautiful Black professionals mingling and mixing, drinking and sexually getting around, with their white collar jobs funding all these clothes, apartments-with-a-view? Seen it.
But we’ve never seen it Johannesburg. Netflix is spreading formulaic rom-coms like this from Peru to Italy, France to South Africa.
Dineo, played with a lot of spunk and spark by Fulu Mugovhani, works in social media marketing and cannot stand to be without romance, a man in her life. But everybody in her office, whether they speak Zulu or Xhosa, English or Afrikaans, knows her romances have a two to three month life span.
She loves being in love, and gives every relationship the full court press, right from the start. She ends up socially stalking her exes, because she scares them off.
“You men don’t get how hard we love!”
Vivacious roommate and BFF Noni (Tumi Morake) is always dragging her “back out there,” pushing to up her “bounce-back game.” That’s what brings her to Lunga (Bohang Moeko), a good-looking guy with a “just roll with it” game.
“Sometimes, relationships aren’t meant to last. We should enjoy them while we can.”
“Why hold onto the past when your future can be right in front of you?”
She’s all about having “someone to come home to.”
“I say it’s better to have someone to come home with!”
She falls for it and falls for him. Noni may cluck that “You’re already picking out baby names,” but Dineo isn’t hearing it. Yes, she’s headed for another fall.
Meanwhile, Noni’s ethos — never sleep with a guy more than once, “otherwise, it’s a ‘relationship,” is tested when hunky bartender Max (Yonda Thomas) gives her all his attention.
Who will change? Who will learn her lesson? Guess. Come on, it’s easy.
“Seriously Single” suggests we seriously need to rethink what we label as “generic” crutches in such romantic comedies. Yes, they’re conventional and worn out — the clubs, “doing shots,” Instagramming (renamed here) your “fun,” having your shame “go viral.”
Here, that’s in the form of Dineo’s wigless rant about faithless, feckless men not wanting what she wants, getting her labeled “#DesperateBae.”
That directors Katleho Ramaphakela and Rethabile Ramaphakela and screenwriter Lwazi Mvusi put that trope in a South African film suggests that either Netflix is handing a checklist to filmmakers in Spain, Italy, Colombia or wherever, or this “generic” device is now universal.
The viral rant, by the way? Funny. Morake gets most of the scattered funny lines and double-takes.
Mogovhani makes a perfectly cute, interesting, plucky and pouty heroine. And the little of South Africa that we see — integrated workplaces, beautiful and distinctly-decorated apartments, Africa-meets-nightclub-couture fashions — dazzles.
Leave the closed captioning on, because there’s a dizzying array of dialects listed. But in any language, this weary, overlong rom-com doesn’t deliver enough that’s distinctive about the “rom” or much of anything that’s funny in the “com” to come off.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, sexual situations, alcohol abuse, profanity
Cast: Fulu Mugovhani, Tumi Morake, Bohang Moeko, Yonda Thomas.
Credits: Directed by Katleho Ramaphakela, Rethabile Ramaphakela, script by Lwazi Mvusi. Netflix release.
Running time: 1:47