Dakota Johnson caught the world’s attention as a bookish, virginal student swept up in an experimental relationship with a seductive billionaire in the titillating film “Fifty Shades Of Grey.”
In her first follow-up as a leading lady, “How To Be Single,” the 26-year-old plays an emotionally needy graduate who convinces her boyfriend they should both live a little before settling down, but then struggles with her newly uncoupled life.
Enter Rebel Wilson to offer Johnson’s character tutelage in the art of New York singledom — from how to work guys for free drinks to partying hard and one-night stands.
Yet Johnson — daughter of movie stars Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson — makes it clear that neither of these young women finding their feet in a big city bear any resemblance to the young woman playing them.
“I’m not the type of person that goes to a lot of parties,” Johnson assures. “I cherish my solitude and I think it’s important for young women, especially now, to know that it’s OK to explore the world and yourself without the pressures of other people’s opinions of you.”
“I don’t need a partner to feel complete. In today’s society there’s less of a stigma on being single. I think society is relinquishing some of the pressures of needing to find a spouse.”
Up until late last year, Johnson was in an on-again off-again relationship with British model-turned-rock musician Matthew Hitt. She’s now rumored to be seeing Jake Gyllenhaal, but on this particular afternoon in Los Angeles, she says she is single.
“I’m attracted to people who respect me, who are kind, who are intelligent and who can keep up with me,” she says with a laugh.
“But for the most part, men don’t approach me. I think they’re afraid. But right now I’m just focused on my work so it isn’t an issue for me.”
“Oh, that freaks me out,” Johnson replies, “although I’ve heard stories of people meeting the loves of their lives …”
Based on a book by Liz Tuccillo and led by a mostly-female screenwriting team, “How To Be Single” unites Johnson, Wilson, Brie and Leslie Mann in a “girl power” quartet to rival “Sex and the City.”
Yet the movie dispenses with the designer outfits (unless Wilson’s dress with an illuminated arrow pointing to her nether regions counts) and brunch-table repartee in favor of content of the “Bridesmaids” or “Knocked Up” variety.
The difference being, where “Bridesmaids” forged the path for women to assert their own take on gross-out humor, “How To Be Single” relishes in such subjects as personal hygiene and sexual promiscuity.
“The message of the movie is that women should love themselves and take care of their hearts and their brains but also not feel bad about going out and having a good time or experiencing and dating different people,” Johnson argues. “There shouldn’t be a stigma on women sleeping with men.”
Wilson agrees — telling News Corp Australia she believes the film’s message is “really 2016”.
“Girls can be raunchy, girls can be confident, girls can be talented, girls can be stupid,” says Wilson, “all really fun stuff to play.”