A 1992 ensemble romantic comedy written and directed by Cameron Crowe and set in Seattle, Singles is very much an Unintentional Period Piece as well as a love letter to the city's alternative/grunge scene of the early '90s.
Steve Dunne (Campbell Scott) meets Linda Powell (Kyra Sedgwick) at a club, and they hit it off. The ups and downs of their relationship are contrasted with those of Steve's friend (and ex-girlfriend) Janet Livermore (Bridget Fonda), who is increasingly frustrated with how aloof her boyfriend Cliff Poncier (Matt Dillon), the leader of a proto-grunge band called "Citizen Dick", acts towards her. With some running threads about other friends, the film shows the ups and downs of relationships for Generation X in the pre-dot-com era.
This film has examples of:
- A-Cup Angst: Janet, especially after Cliff admits that he sometimes fantasizes about women with larger breasts when they have sex. Ultimately put to rest by the surgeon she consulted about implants.
- Answer Cut: After Linda tells Ruth she's thinking of marrying Luis:Ruth: If you get married, will we still go out dancing?(cut to Linda and Ruth in a club dancing to Pearl Jam)Linda: (shouting) We will always go out dancing!
- As Himself: The members of Pearl Jam are themselves, except as the backup for Cliff's band Citizen Dick rather than as Pearl Jam.
- Author Appeal: All the music and its prominent place in the film.
- Beard of Sorrow: Steve, after failing to get back together with Linda and after his "Supertrain" idea gets turned down flat (which possibly led to his leaving of work; the movie only suggests that he left his job afterwards).
- Better as Friends: Steve and Janet, by mutual agreement.
- Brick Joke: Cliff is telling the story of the guy Debbie has finally hooked up with while delivering her flowers from him. After he delivers them, he mentions he has to sneak into Debbie's apartment and spell her name out in rose petals. He then looks up and sees Janet, who's broken up with him but whom he still pines for. A few scenes later, Janet comes home to find Cliff has spelled out a message for her in rose petals. Doubles as an Ironic Echo.
- The Cameo: Basketball player Xavier McDaniels, in what may be the movie's most hilarious line. Also cameos from various grunge personalities, including all the members of Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Chris Cornell, Tad Doyle and Bruce Pavitt, as well as Paul Giamatti and a rare before-the-camera Tim Burton cameo.
- The Casanova: The Spanish Foreign Exchange Student Linda dates early in the movie cheats on her right away.
- Chekhov's Gun: Well, sneeze, anyway.
- Also, the "secret knock" Janet teaches Steve.
- Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Debbie finally finding someone right for her minutes before the ending.
- Cult Soundtrack: Just ask anyone who went to college in the early '90s.
- Dating Service Disaster: Discussed, but Debbie avoids any of the obvious examples and goes for the guy who seems nice enough.
- Played straight, however, in that she's late for the date (she went to the wrong restaurant), and by the time she catches up with him at her apartment, he's flirting with her roommate, who went to college with him.
- Description Cut: Immediately after Linda says she likes Steve because he doesn't play games, we cut to Steve saying, "I need to play this just right."
- Later in that same sequence, Debbie tells Steve and the others, "I'm telling you, that girl doesn't want you tugging at her bra strap. She wants drama, she wants mystery, she wants excitement," and we immediately cut to Linda, who says, "I don't want drama, I don't want excitement, I just want to trust (Steve)."
- Diabolus ex Machina: The car accident that causes Linda's miscarriage.
- Disco Dan: Although temporally not that far removed from the fashion's origin, Debbie's early 80's look is so radically different from the grunge/alt-rock aesthetic that all the other characters embrace that she stands out even more than if she had dressed like she was from the 60's or 70's.
- Fiery Redhead: Averted with Debbie, the token redhead, who is instead The Ditz.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-Universe - if you believe Cliff, Citizen Dick has a big following in Belgium and Italy.
- Hospital Hottie: Dr. Jamison might be in private practice rather than at a hospital, but Janet does note that he has plenty of attractive points.
- Humiliation Conga: Steve gets denied the chance to work on his dream project, loses his job, his girlfriend, his potential child, and his office cubicle collapses around him.
- Ironic Echo Cut:Linda: This guy plays no games.
Steve: I've got to play this one perfectly.
- Last Minute Hookup: Cliff and Janet getting back together.
- Le Film Artistique: Debbie's dating video is this as well as a Big-Lipped Alligator Moment, featuring a cringe-worthy homage to the shower scene from Psycho among other things.
- Love Epiphany:
- Played with throughout the movie. Janet has an inverted one when she realizes that Cliff is so self-absorbed that he won't even say "Bless you" when she sneezes. After their breakup, Cliff realizes how much he does love her and tries to get her back. The final scene is when they happen to meet in an elevator, and this time he does say "Bless you" when she sneezes.
- Played perfectly straight with Debbie. Earlier in the movie, she wanted her dating service video to showcase a pair of earrings that she loved, but nobody else liked. Near the end, she takes a flight, and asks to be seated next to a single man - who, much to her chagrin, is a teenage boy. However, when she gets off, she runs into the boy's father, who looks at her earrings and loves them. Cliff then reveals that the two have started a long-distance relationship, and that Debbie's planning on moving soon.
- Meaningful Echo: "I just happened to be nowhere near your neighborhood."
- Must Have Caffeine: Janet works at a coffee shop, and the entire circle of friends regularly hangs out there, with everyone regularly having another cup.
- Really Gets Around: Debbie Hunt is said to consume men instead of food.
- Sampling/Expy: The opening theme and the ending theme to the movie are technically two different songs. However, the difference between "Dyslexic Heart" and "Waiting For Somebody" is purely which lyrics Paul Westerberg is singing; they share the exact same instrumentation. The vocals are even in the same key; one could switch between singing them without a problem.
- Second Act Break Up: Happens to Steve and Linda after she gets back from her research cruise, and to Cliff and Janet after she breaks off the relationship due to his lack of attentiveness.
- Shotgun Wedding: Steve proposes when it's discovered that he's gotten Linda pregnant; it's called off after the miscarriage.
- Shout-Out: The film has chapter titles, and one of the chapter titles ("Have Fun Stay Single") is imposed over a still photograph from Nothing Sacred.
- When Linda and Steve are first having sex, Andy calls in the middle of it, and to drown him out, Linda turns on the TV; My Three Sons comes on.
- Citizen Dick's single, "Touch Me, I'm Dick" is an homage to "Touch Me, I'm Sick" by another one of Seattle's grunge pioneers, Mudhoney.
- Something Else Also Rises: When Steve and Linda do reunite at the end, they start making out on the couch, and she sits on the garage door opener, causing the door to open and close.
- That Came Out Wrong:Linda: (pissed Steve waited four days to call her after they had sex) I just don't want to play games.
Steve: Games? If I was playing games, I would have waited a week to call you. (Beat) What I meant to say is...