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Singles Reviews

Rolling Stone contributor turned writer-director Cameron Crowe pulled off a near-impossible feat with his first film, SAY ANYTHING: he made an intelligent, endearing, non-sappy teen romance. With his follow-up, SINGLES, Crowe ambitiously tackles the romantic lives of a group of twentysomething characters, as played out against an appealing Seattle backdrop. SINGLES is more a series of interlocking vignettes than a straightforward narrative; the film is divided into "chapters" and characters occasionally talk directly to the screen, to introduce themselves or comment on the action. The principals are Linda (Kyra Sedgwick), who works for an environmental agency, and Steve (Campbell Scott), an urban planner, who enjoy an idyllic love affair that gets complicated when Linda discovers she's pregnant. Steve's U-shaped singles apartment complex also houses Janet (Bridget Fonda) and Cliff (Matt Dillon), the clownish lead singer of grunge-metal band Citizen Dick (played by members of Seattle sensation Pearl Jam). Janet, Steve's trusted advisor on matters of the heart, is hung up on Cliff, but Cliff is more devoted to the band than to his quasi-girlfriend, and Janet makes several attempts to win him over before she finally breaks off the relationship. SINGLES works because it gets so many details right: the discussions about how long to wait after a date before calling someone back, or the strategies people use to convince themselves someone is attracted to them, are skewered with amusing accuracy. Mercifully, Crowe hasn't added a syrupy orchestral score to cue the audience during emotional scenes. Instead, there's music from former Replacements front man Paul Westerberg and some of the Seattle bands who rose to national prominence in 1992: Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and many others. These angry, fiercely contemporary sounds act as an effective counterpoint to the characters' seemingly cool, collected psyches. SINGLES is funny and well-observed and, most notably, plays to its audience's intelligence rather than its libido.