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The Rom-Com That’s Responsible for My 30-Year Marriage

Dear 1994 Sam Anderson: Hello. It’s me, 2024 Sam Anderson – you from the future, exactly 30 years from now. (I’m explaining because you are bad at math.) I am typing this on technology that doesn’t exist yet. I’m older than your parents currently are. I have a big beard, and my lower back hurts, and I spend most of my time playing word games or reading apocalyptic news alerts on the supercomputer I keep in my pocket. The 21st century, to be honest, sucks. To put it in terms you’ll understand: We’re trying to swing on the flippity flop, but we’re living in a harsh realm.

But I don’t want to scare you. There are good things too: wireless earbuds, exciting new flavors of Doritos. Weird Al Yankovic is still going strong. And your life has turned out better than you have any right to expect. You do not die of that thing you think you are dying of. You are allowed to write goofy things like this for your job. And — the biggest miracle of all — you have a stable, loving, long-term marriage.

For that last one, you owe a serious debt of gratitude to a classic film: the 1992 romantic comedy “Singles.”

Well, it’s classic for me. You have just now seen it, on your first date with Sarah from math class. This, in fact, is the main reason I’m writing: to tell you that 30 years from now, you and Sarah will still be together, and “Singles” will be such a pillar of your relationship that you will celebrate your 30th dating anniversary, Valentine’s Day 2024, by rewatching it.

You will see it, this time, from a very different angle. You will marvel at the passage of time; at the ways that the world, and you yourselves, are exactly the same but also radically different; at how things that once struck you as extremely cool still strike you as extremely cool, but are now also drenched in sadness. Rewatching “Singles” with Sarah will feel life-affirming, like an unofficial renewal of your vows. And you will realize that this film — this ancient, lighthearted, 99-minute comedy — has been the most important movie of your life.

These days, “Singles” is remembered mainly as a novelty: the “grunge rom-com.” It was filmed in Seattle in 1991, as the city’s scruffy rock bands drifted, improbably, toward global superfame. And it came out in 1992, with grunge mania in full bloom: Nirvana topping the charts, journalists flocking to Seattle, fashion designers scrambling to put flannel on the runway. “Singles” is to grunge basically as “Saturday Night Fever” is to disco. Scenes take place in Seattle clubs, where Soundgarden and Alice in Chains play live. Members of Pearl Jam are minor characters. The soundtrack is so packed that it was rushed into stores months before the movie reached theaters.

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