Follow TV Tropes


Film / Singles

Go To

A 1992 ensemble romantic comedy written and directed by Cameron Crowe and set in Seattle, Singles is a loving time capsule of the city's Alternative Rock/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.
  • Almost Kiss: Steve and Linda are sitting on the floor (when she comes over to his building to do laundry), listening to Jimi Hendrix's "May This be Love", they turn to each other...and then just as they're about to kiss, she remembers, "My clothes!" gets up, and walks away, leaving him sitting there.
  • 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: Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam are credited as 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.
    Steve: (after he kisses Janet but she breaks it off) You know, in an alternate universe, we're probably a scorching couple.
    Janet: But in this one - neighbors.
  • 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.
    • Various grunge personalities makes cameos.
      • All the members of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden appear playing music at the local club.
      • Chris Cornell himself cameos as Janet's neighbor during the scene where Cliff shows off the stereo he installed in her car.
      • Eddie Vedder, Stone Gossard, and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam have small speaking roles as part of Cliff's band Citizen Dick.
      • Musician Tad Doyle and Sub Pop founder Bruce Pavitt make cameos.
    • Tim Burton has one of his very few onscreen appearances in this film.
  • 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.
    • Also the plate Linda drops when she's in the kitchen with Steve early on. When she's alone near the end, and drops her own plate, she sits on the ground looking at the broken pieces, and you can tell she's thinking of Steve.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Debbie finally finding someone right for her minutes before the ending.
  • Creator Cameo: Cameron Crowe plays a journalist interviewing Cliff. Doubles as an Author Allusion, as Crowe started out as a journalist for Rolling Stone.
  • 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 frothy, brightly coloured mid-80's look is so radically different from the paired-back, anti-fashion 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.
  • Everyone Hates Mimes: Eric Stoltz has a cameo as an obnoxious bitter mime who everyone wishes would stop talking once he starts.
  • Fiery Redhead: Averted with Debbie, the token redhead, who is instead The Ditz.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: When Linda and Steve are driving, Steve looks at the intersection they're approaching and says "That light's green way too long". Then they get hit by a truck, leading to Linda miscarrying.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: In-Universe - if you believe Cliff, Citizen Dick has a big following in Belgium and Italy.
  • The Glomp: In their first scene together, Janet gives one of these to Cliff, who is a little startled.
  • 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 Dodecahedron: Discussed by Steve:
    Steve: (after revealing he broke up with his ex, Jennifer) Now she's with Tony. Tony knows my friend Bailey, who's friends with the girl that Tony's going out with on the side, Rita. Rita, whom I broke up with to go out with Jennifer. So, now, do I tell Jennifer that I know Tony's going out with Rita, or do I tell Rita that I know about Tony and Jennifer? Tony, who will Jennifer that I was still going out with Rita when I was going out with her. How does this stuff get so complicated? I don't know.
  • 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, which leads her to get back with Cliff.
    • 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 was just 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.
  • On Second Thought: When Janet is trying to cheer Steve up after his breakup with Linda and after he lost his job:
    Janet: People need people, Steve. It's got nothing to do with sex...Okay, maybe 40 percent...60 percent...forget it.
  • 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 we first see Janet, she's serving coffee to someone who's reading Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung by Lester Bangs, Cameron Crowe's mentor (as revealed in Almost Famous).
    • 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.
    • When Cliff and Janet are on the elevator near the end, he says to her, "That's a very nice hat you're wearing, and I don't mean that in an Eddie Haskell kind of way."
  • 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...
  • Waking Non Sequitur: Subverted; when Linda is trying to wake up after the car crash she and Steve get into, the first words she says have to do with Xavier McDaniel and James Worthy, whom she and Steve were discussing before the crash.