Stuck in Love, Review

New indie dramedy Stuck in Love shows writers make for the worst kind of lovers, not to mention love stories.

Writers are a fickle bunch. All words and little action, simply selecting a restaurant can be scrutinized and contemplated with more agony and indecision than that of a Danish Prince seeking vengeance. If you put a group of us together, you can inevitably add insecurity and even more vacillation to that infernal formula. Yet, this is exactly what Writer/Director Josh Boone does in his first feature, Stuck in Love. Crafted as an intended sonnet to the literary heart of romance, the film is an indie all-star introspection with allusions from Raymond Carver to, surprisingly enough, Stephen King. But, at its sincere core, Stuck in Love is the happy-go-lucky dramedy that wants to pull at your heartstrings with its cast of kooky semi-narcissists.  Bill Borgens (Greg Kinnear) and Erica (Jennifer Connelly) have been divorced for two years. As Kinnear’s titular novelist confides in the film’s opening voiceover, he has been replaced by a younger, dumber model. That does not prevent him from piquing his inspiration by spying on her domestic life from time-to-time. When Bill isn’t stalking his ex-wife, he is getting tips about giving up on her from his equally wordy children. Rusty (Nat Wolff), Bill’s 16-year-old son, is a hopeless romantic like the old man and keeps receiving counter-advice to find life experience for his writing by hitting on high school crush Kate (Liana Liberato). Meanwhile, collegiate Samantha (Lily Collins) has become a stubborn cynic after witnessing her disowned mother’s infidelity firsthand. At age 20, she is about to have her first novel, a scathing indictment of love, published and is soaking in the success with a detached series of one-night stands…until she meets the earnest and persistent Lou (Logan Lerman). Not that Bill isn’t getting any on the side himself. Every weekday afternoon, he dutifully waits by his beachfront home in a lawn chair for married neighbor and resolute FWB, Tricia (Kristen Bell). Ultimately though, his heart belongs to winning Erica back and ensuring that by next Thanksgiving his family of writers are all one chapter closer to a happy ending.  For such an intellectually burdened and overly thoughtful family, the talented Borgens make for a very neatly clean cinematic subject. Do not misunderstand, this is certainly a movie about writers. It is inescapable given the picture’s year-long narrative structure; the cold miserable grays and charcoal blacks of winter are a time of romance and wonder in this literary world while summer (and her scenes) is the period for reflection and annoyance with those boring, happy people around them. However, both this story’s beginning and end are abruptly closed off for the simple pleasures of exposition and a rushed happy resolution. There is not so much narrative drama as mild inconveniences that solve themselves whether the characters actively change or not. Interesting questions, such as whether Bill’s insistence that both his children become writers by forcing them to keep diaries/journals and paying them for the exercise is good parenting, are ignored in favor of meet-cute sequences involving Bill and Erica bumping into each other during Christmas shopping and admitting divorce might be a mistake. Still, the movie’s great strength is a strong cast that is game to be playing a family a little more aware of their emotional failings than the typical indie quirk. Kinnear is immediately endearing and authentic as the disheveled writer who spends his days pining for a wife he pushed away and sitting on the empty beach by his house, waiting for Tricia to make her 20-minute jogging detour into his bedroom. Indeed, Kristen Bell’s all-too-brief scenes may err on the side of sitcom, but provide the best genuine laughs in the movie as she nudges Bill onto dating sites between trips to his couch and picking her kids up from school an hour later.  Both Wolff and Collins are fresh faced and pleasant presences as children taking the polar opposite approaches to their love lives and writing in the wake of a broken family. Rusty dreams of angelic bliss while courting a girl with a serious drug problem and channeling his imagination through the Stephen King filter; conversely, Samantha poises herself as a serious artistic mind beholden to the written word while finding herself slowly drawn into a very stable and idyllic romance with the boy next door. And on a reviewer’s aside, it is striking how close Lily Collins resembles her onscreen mother, Jennifer Connelly. Written by casting, indeed. There are some expected twists and messy developments in the dog days of summer, but these characters are so analytical that even the biggest family crisis can be rationalized away as a minor episode, not unlike the film’s overall narrative. There is no doubt that the Borgens make for charming and sweetly entertaining company, particularly in Kinnear’s melancholic eyes. Thus, it is a slight shame that in a movie about a family of words, the one thing holding it back is the screenplay. Den of Geek Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


2.5 out of 5