It’s tough being a successful, award-winning writer, with a huge house on the beach.
In the comedy/drama “Stuck In Love,” Greg Kinnear plays William Borgens, a novelist who finds himself in a bit of rut after his divorce. He’s still in love with his ex-wife Erica (Jennifer Connelly), and he hasn’t written anything new in the two years since the marriage ended. He’s also juggling a sex-only relationship with Tricia, the married woman who lives down the beach (Kristen Bell). Both his son and daughter are budding writers as well, and have romantic complications of their own to deal with. His high-school-aged son Rusty (Nat Wolff) has fallen for a troubled girl with a drug problem, while college student daughter Samantha (Lily Collins) hasn’t spoken to her mother in over a year and avoids any kind of commitment through promiscuity and a caustic reserve.
In his debut feature, writer/director Josh Boone sets an ambitious table of complicated characters and emotions. In some scenes, he shows an easy, restrained approach to pacing and a good sense of visual framing. I liked the opening montage of cooking the Thanksgiving meal at the beginning, with its loose choreography and editing. It’s an uncluttered performance from the director’s chair, made more noteworthy by the film’s speedy shooting schedule of twenty days. But Boone’s obvious sincerity is sabotaged by an uneven script that relies heavily on convenience and tired romantic comedy tropes.
Kinnear and Connelly are well cast in roles tailored for them, and do solid work, as do the rest of the cast. But they shift uncomfortably in a plot that feels like an ill-fitting sportcoat, tight at the shoulders and short in the sleeves for characters who feel like they might have more to say given the chance. Samantha’s boyfriend Louis has a dying mother, who is seen once and then forgotten, only recurring when the plot needs a way to motivate Samantha to reconcile with Erica. The character of Tricia is clumsy and witless, like some unsettling cross-breed of those two rom-com staples, the gay best friend and the sex-hungry eye-candy.
The film works best in its early scenes, with its short-hand character introductions and sense of a tense family dynamic. This before the requisite plot developments tidy up and politely broom believability into the margins. A particularly ill-judged sequence begins at a publisher’s party, a scene that seems emailed in as an attachment from some other movie about the dangers of under-age champagne drinking and the glory of heroic nose-breaking.
There’s also an off-puttingly casual treatment of writing itself, which is ironic considering the working title of this films was “Writers.” William and Rusty and Samantha couldn’t exactly be plumbers or pipe-fitters or the guys who pour the nacho sauce at Yankee Stadium, but there’s no texture to their life as writers, either. They talk about books and quote great writers, but they get published with the wizardly ease that only comes in the movies. There’s even a voice-over cameo from Stephen King, in a scene that might provoke vomiting from anyone who’s actually tried to sell a short-story.
The Blu-ray/DVD combo edition of “Stuck In Love” is presented in 16×9, 1.78:1 Full Frame. Picture quality is satisfactory in the Blu-ray version which is reviewed here. There are options for English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
The audio track is 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, with an option for Stereo 2.0. Minimal problems with the soundtrack, and a nice balance between the music and dialogue.
- A talky, self-congratulatory making-of featurette, with cast and filmmaker interviews. The story about Boone’s youthful gift from Stephen King is the best part, and makes King out to be a pretty good guy.
- A commentary track with director/writer Josh Boone and actor Nat Wolff. Not bad as these things go, but it’s a bit tiresome hearing how everyone was “such a nice guy” or “a great friend.”
“Stuck In Love” features some enjoyable performances in its story of a struggling writer and his romantically challenged family, but a too-tidy script loses its way.