Director: Josh Boone
Cast: Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Kristen Bell, Lily Collins, Logan Lerman, Nat Wolff, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Spencer Breslin, Liana Liberato, Rusty Joiner
RunTime: 1 hr 37 mins
Rating: M18 (Drug Use and Sexual Scene)
Released By: Shaw
Opening Day: 26 September 2013
Synopsis: From first-time writer-director Josh Boone and Judy Cairo, the producer of CRAZY HEART, comes a comically rich yet emotionally raw romantic comedy about a family of writers who have nearly lost the plot of their own love stories. Three years past his divorce, veteran novelist Bill Borgens (Academy Award® nominee Greg Kinnear) can’t stop obsessing over, let alone spying on, his ex-wife Erica (Academy Award® winner Jennifer Connelly), who ignominiously left him for another man. Even as his neighbor-with-benefits, Tricia (Kristen Bell, “House of Lies”), tries to push him back into the dating pool, he remains blind to anyone else’s charms. Meanwhile, his fiercely independent collegiate daughter Samantha (Lily Collins, MIRROR MIRROR) is publishing her first novel while recoiling at the very thought of first love with a diehard romantic (Logan Lerman, THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER); and his teen son Rusty (Nat Wolff, PEACE, LOVE AND MISUNDERSTANDING) is trying to find his voice, both as a fantasy writer and as the unexpected boyfriend of a dream girl with unsettlingly real problems. As each of these situations mounts into a tangled trio of romantic holiday crises, it brings the Borgens to surprising revelations about how endings become beginnings. With STUCK IN LOVE, Boone takes on the theme of family dysfunction from his own fresh POV, one both unflinchingly hilarious and distinctly hopeful. Featuring a diverse cast of award winners and up-and-comers -- and driven by a resonant score from members of the indie rock band Bright Eyes and a soundtrack from some of today’s hottest artists--the film reveals how even amidst the travails of marriage, divorce, parenting and coming of age, the family ties that trip us up can turn into a lifeline.
Stuck in Love features a family of writers with their different attitudes and views of love. The head of the family and published author, Bill Borgens (Greg Kinnear) has been waiting three years for his re-married ex-wife, Erica (Jennifer Connelly) to return. Bill and Erica’s daughter, Sam (Lily Collins) looks for one night stands and avoids getting into a relationship with Lou (Logan Lerman) after being disillusioned by her parents’ marriage. On the other hand, their son Rusty (Nat Wolff), the complete opposite of Sam and a hopeless romantic, starts dating Kate (Liana Liberato) after he rescues her from an abusive relationship.
The movie is the director Josh Boone’s directorial debut as well as autobiography, which lead to worries that the movie would be overly indulgent. Thankfully, Boone steers mostly clear from these problems, and of any one-sided account of the events or characters. However, one cannot help but question is Kristin Bell’s character, Tricia, is needed, as she only seems to exist for comedic effect, and her friends-with-benefits relationship with Bill is largely disconnected from the rest of the story.
Along with the primary topic of love, the director does not shy away from the realistic portrayal vices that are too easily sugarcoated: casual sex, alcoholism, and recreational drug use and addiction. Sam and Rusty use these vices as a coping device after their parents’ divorce. While Sam uses sex as a symbol of her cynicism of love, Rusty is too blinded by his love and sex with Kate to realize that Kate is facing problems of her own. The consequences of drug use and addiction are also shown as severe, driving Kate to nearly lose her life. Rusty’s recreational drug use and spiral into self-destruction is eventually stemmed by his writing, and the audience finds it hard to reproach Rusty. This, however, might be due to the director’s portrayal of the character ? Rusty, after all, represents Boone at that age.
The movie starts and ends during Thanksgiving, and while the first Thanksgiving ends in argument, the second ends with a sense of the Borgens family having gone full circle. The ending is heart-warming, despite it being clichéd and possibly too idealistic and happy. In-between, however, the movie contains abrupt cuts and scenes that seem to have no particular purpose except as a means to the end, such as the scenes leading to the reconciliation between Erica and Sam.
Lily Collins and Nat Wolff’s portrayal of Sam and Rusty Borgens, having to bear the brunt of their parents’ failed marriage while navigating school and social life, is commendable. Last seen in The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, where Collins also plays a character who has problems with her mother, her performance is arguably better in Stuck in Love, and is particularly impressive when Sam coldly refuses to acknowledge Erica at her book launch. Nat Wolff plays the awkward but talented Rusty with a good amount of vulnerability, stuck between his parents, under his sister’s shadow and desperate for love. His performance leads to the most memorable scene in the movie, when Rusty breaks down after realizing how broken Kate is, and that he is helpless to help her.
Overall, Stuck in Love is a good first attempt by director Josh Boone, who navigates between recreating between his own experiences and making a movie. The characters are also largely relatable, either as Bill who pines for his wife while trying to move on, or as Sam and Rusty, experiencing love and heartbreak for the first time. Take the movie as what it is romantic drama with comedy and the movie turns out to be satisfying with laughter and tears.
("Stuck in Love" is a feel-good movie that is easy to like, that is primarily aimed at romantics, while its cast would possibly attract many young adults as well)
Review by Goh Yan Hui