The Movie Waffler New Release Review - Stuck in Love | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Stuck in Love

A writer and his son and daughter face their own struggles with romance.

Directed by: Josh Boone
Starring: Logan Lerman, Kristen Bell, Jennifer Connelly, Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins, Nat Wolff, Liano Liberato

Since his wife, Erica (Connelly), left him for a younger man a couple of years ago, novelist Bill (Kinnear) has been moping around, awaiting her increasingly unlikely return. His 19-year-old daughter, Sam (Collins), has been so affected by her mother's betrayal that she refuses to allow herself become romantically involved, choosing a string of one night stands instead, until a classmate (Lerman) sweeps her off her feet. Rusty (Wolff), his 16-year-old son, is a shy, romantic young man obsessed with a troubled girl in his class. All three must face the question of how to deal with the obstacle of love to move forward with their respective lives.
Writer-director Boone's debut feature is a light, breezy affair, often reminiscent of the sort of milk-toast dramas American networks air on Sunday evenings. Think 'Seventh Heaven' with liberals. His characters, who he clearly feels affection for even if we can't, don't stand up closely to scrutiny. The set-up is almost identical to Noah Baumbach's 'The Squid & the Whale' but Boone asks us to take the side of the self-absorbed novelist father rather than the rational mother. Bill spends the movie lamenting the break-up of his marriage while at the same time conducting an affair with a married neighbor (Bell), an irony Boone's script never addresses. Sam has quite an odious personality and her sudden transformation into a sensitive soul never feels realistic. Likewise Rusty, who goes from shy geek to world's-greatest-boyfriend with the swing of a punch.
A film-maker like Todd Solondz could take these characters as they are and make this a biting satire of middle class self indulgence. At one point Rusty reveals how his father pays him a weekly wage to write his journal, all so he doesn't have to take "a shitty job in MacDonalds". None of the characters have problems that couldn't be solved by heeding the advice of anyone who implored "Get over yourself!". Quite why we should back these characters is unclear, and if they weren't essayed by affable personalities like Kinnear, Collins and Wolff the film could be a gruelling test of audience willpower. Collins, daughter of Phil, is a real revelation, a tomboyish Audrey Hepburn who is perfectly cast, in her looks, as Connelly's daughter. At times, the actress gets Boone out of a hole, saving awkwardly written moments with her expressive face.
Considering he's made a movie about writing, Boone could do well to learn the most important element of drama; conflict. His characters simply have it all too easy; they just don't realize it. Maybe Boone doesn't either?

Eric Hillis