Stuck in Love is an enjoyable rom-com/drama that will win you over with its lively characters and winning story. As with many movies that first run in the indie circuits, it tends to be a little pretentious and uses references that not everyone will get, but when a movie revolves around a family of writers what can we expect?
Written and directed by Josh Boon, Stuck in Love follows the story of Bill Borgens (Greg Kinnear), a novelist who is struggling to get over his divorce with Erica (Jennifer Connelly), who seems to be moving on just fine with her new husband. Their college age daughter Samantha (Lily Collins) is fiercely independent and wildly promiscuous, having her first novel published, and repels at any attempt at a loving relationship with men as well as her mother. Their son Rusty (Nat Wolff) is also a writer, but life in high school soon takes its toll. He meets a beautiful but tragic girl that he can’t resist, and their relationship both inspires his writing and makes him crazy.
We watch as these characters grow from being incredibly dysfunctional to quirky and redeeming. Samantha learns to love, Rusty gains life experiences, Bill begins dating with help from his friend-with-benefits neighbor (Kristin Bell), and Erica pulls her head out of the sand to truly see her family and their struggles. The characters may not speak to everyone considering their severity and sometimes shocking choices, but they are still relatable. Kinnear and Connelly give the best performances I’ve seen from either of them in a while, and they fall right in these strange but lovable characters’ shoes. Wolff and Collins held their own, though occasionally Collins was less than believable (though the casting agent deserves praise for seeing the striking familial resemblance between Connelly and Collins). The real stand out performance was given by Logan Lerman (Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Three Musketeers) who plays Samantha’s would-be boyfriend. He is also a bit tragic, but you really fall in love with Lerman’s portrayal of the character. He’s one to watch for, being full of true skill and genuine star quality.
One of the most fantastic aspects of this quietly entertaining film is the spot-on cinematography. Tim Orr has a wonderful way of finding the mood and the light in a shot, creating a spellbinding atmosphere and utilizing the beautiful coastal locations. The score is uniquely suited for this indie romantic-comedy/drama as it features artists like Wallpaper Airplanes, Like Pioneers, and Bright Eyes. The score, the cinematography, and the dysfunctional family neatly fit together to create an interesting and unique experience.
Like any movie, there is a downside. With nearly every character be a ‘writer’, every other interaction between them includes an obscure literary reference. After a bombardment of these in the first half of the film, it begins to feel less necessary to the dialog and more like Stuck in Love is Stuck on Itself. The author name-dropping and declarations of favorite books with heavy meaning behind them tends to alienate most of the audience. There were several times I would see someone turn to the person next to them in the theater with a confused look about a reference, only to receive a similarly bewildered look followed by a shoulder shrug. Quibbles about pretentiousness aside, Stuck in Love is an enjoyable, quiet, and engaging movie about relationships, and the witty characters and script will keep you invested to the end.
4 out of 5.