Starring: Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins,
You may like this if you like: The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010), The Squid and the Whale (Noah Baumbach, 2005), The Savages (Tamara Jenkins, 2007)
William Borgans (Kinnear) is a successful writer who has not been able to write a word since his wife Erica (Connelly) left him for another man. His two children are also aspiring writers (partly down to his own insistence); his daughter Samantha (Collins) has just got her first publishing deal and actively avoids falling in love, preferring casual sex. While her younger brother Rusty (Nat Wolff) aspires to write like Stephen King, but according to father William lacks any life experience to ever be a successful writer. So, he finds a meaning in life by falling in love with troubled (and also spoken for) Kate (Liana Liberato). The film follows each family member’s struggles to deal with their particular reltionship demons and new experiences over the course of a year.
This film was originally called Writers and I am extremely glad Josh Boone decided to drop such a pretentious sounding title as it would have put a few people off. While Stuck in Love is hardly the most inspired title, it is perfectly suitable for the narrative and the characters within it. This is a low key indie film made with honesty and integrity; the solid (if not spectacular) material elevated by great turns from an impressive all star cast.
This is a film that is not frightened to deal with a brutal honesty the mess we can all make of a relationship and that because of the human condition we all have our own flaws. Every character is developed well and their individual actions and perspectives on relationships are entirely justified. They all make decisions that us the outsider looking in knows may not be the right ones, but I genuinely felt I could relate to all characters involved. It is their flaws and misjudgements that make them human and ultimately believable and genuinely sympathetic.
Being a character driven drama, great performances were always going to be a must for Stuck in Love to work. Despite the low budget, Boone has assembled an impressive cast who all give excellent performances. Kinnear and Connelly are reliably excellent, as are Nat Wolff and Liana Liberato. The biggest surprise for me were Logan Lerman and Lily Collins; having appeared in pretty average films so far, it was a pleasant surprise to see that when given the chance and good material, they are very good actors.
Unfortunately, Boone’s film does become a little too pleased with itself and so will not change anyone’s life as the ending is perhaps a little too neat and tidy. Boone does at times feel too afraid to really push both his script and his characters which could have made this film as truly emotionally devastating as it potentially could have been. There is a consistently gentle tone which is fine, but keeps the film watchable but never truly gripping, but thankfully Boone for the most part avoids too many clichés. However, there is enough genuine heart here for us to want these characters to ultimately be happy and they are certainly worth investing 100 minutes of our time in.
Made with honesty and integrity, Stuck in Love is an engaging exploration of human relationships elevated by excellent performances. Let’s just hope that next time Josh Boone has a bigger budget and more confidence in his ability to push his script and characters further.