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‘Singles’ (PG-13)

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 18, 1992

In "Singles," telegenic, model-ish people in their early twenties find hope, lust and disappointment in the Northwest. This episodic, romantic drama featuring Bridget Fonda, Campbell Scott, Kyra Sedgwick, Matt Dillon, Sheila Kelley and others often seems like a Seattle version of TV's "Melrose Place." For the right (mostly pre-35) audience, that's precisely the ticket.

Part of the seltzer-water, 501-Jeans age, Fonda and company are not only generationally connected, they share the same apartment complex -- and problems in love. Fonda, a coffee-shop waitress and would-be architect, is desperately devoted to boyfriend Dillon. But the long-haired rock singer -- with an amusingly inflated opinion of his talent and aspiring groupies all around -- doesn't appreciate her.

Sedgwick, on the rebound from a deceitful lover, meets bright-eyed city planner Scott in a music club. But when he falls madly in love with her, she's still relationship-squeamish, not to mention work-oriented. As for desperately seeking Kelley, she's convinced all she needs to snag Mr. Right is a fashion makeover and the right video.

Writer-director Cameron Crowe, who directed the John Hughes-scripted "Say Anything" and wrote "Fast Times at Ridgemont High,", creates a diverting collection of interwoven vignettes. It's not art, but it's always diverting.

The central affair, between Sedgwick and Scott, is the most compelling. Early in the courtship period, Scott has his romantic work cut out for him trying to divine Sedgwick's intentions. On their first date, when passenger Sedgwick reaches over and unlocks the driver's door for him, he's elated.

"She opened my car door button," he muses later in voice-over narration. "Unmistakable sign."

When the relationship takes off (at least initially), the new lovers find themselves in the throes of passion. "What are you thinking of right now?" pants Sedgwick. The movie cuts to what Scott is really picturing: a locker-room interview with sports hero Xavier McDaniel. Needless to say, he doesn't answer.

There is a comedically touching scene in which Fonda, who'll do anything to capture Dillon, decides to have her breasts enlarged. When she visits relatively wiser, 33-year-old surgeon Bill Pullman, he shows her various options by means of computer-generated graphics. It turns into a hysterical battle of opinions, as Pullman creates a modestly endowed model while Fonda, forcefully tapping the computer keys, opts for mega-capacity.

Crowe's better with the fun and games than the serious stuff. His attempts to be writerly -- with the visual equivalent of chapter headings such as "Blue Seattle" or "What Took You So Long?" -- come across as pretentious. He doesn't have the artistic weight to deal with, like, heaviosity. When one couple faces the unwelcome possibility of parenthood, the story takes a narrative cop-out -- details of which you can discover when you see the movie. Suddenly the whole incident is forgotten and you wonder why it was introduced in the first place.

There's an abundance of great, "Seattle Sound" music, with offerings from Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Pearl Jam and others. "Singles" is not only youth-TV, it's a soundtrack with pictures. In between songs, the characters air their funny idiosyncrasies. "Janet," Dillon says flatly to Fonda, "you're spazzing off on me." When a philosophical Fonda observes that "people need people, it's got nothing to do with sex," that's about as wise as this movie gets -- or probably ought to.

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