Coming from someone who’s passionate about reading and writing, it’s kind of nice to watch Stuck in Love, a 2012 independent film about a family of writers experiencing trouble with their love lives.
The head of the family, Bill (Greg Kinnear), is an acclaimed novelist, but he hasn’t written anything since his wife, Erica (Jennifer Connelly), left him three years ago. He spends his nights lurking outside his ex-wife’s new home, spying on her and her new husband in hopes of finding the two fighting. He spends his days having an affair with his married neighbor, Tricia (Kristen Bell), and trying to take her advice about moving on with his life after the divorce. Erica tries to convince herself that she made the right decision by leaving Bill.
Bill and Erica’s daughter, Samantha (Lily Collins), is a 19-year-old college student. Samantha is a cynical writer who’s about to get her first book – a novel based on the experience invoked by her parents’ separation – published. The divorce has appeared to have taken a toll on her, as she blames her mother for what happened and hasn’t spoken to her in over a year. She also urges her father to move on with his life, rolling her eyes at things like him leaving a spot for her at Thanksgiving dinner even though she won’t come. Samantha doesn’t believing in dating or having a boyfriend either. She goes around having sex with a bunch of guys at her campus.
That is, she does so until a fellow fiction writer and classmate, Louis (Logan Lerman), comes into contact with her. After watching her from afar, he introduces himself and tries desperately to get her to go out with him. This is a challenge, as Samantha claims to have no interest in dating. But after seeing a softer side of Lou, she takes the plunge and the two start seeing each other. He tries to reassure her that he won’t hurt her while she makes it clear how scared she is of committing herself to a relationship.
Then there’s Bill’s son, Rusty (Nat Wolff), a high school kid obsessed with Stephen King novels and watching his crush, Kate (Liana Liberato), from afar. Unlike Samantha, Rusty is very much into the idea of true love, but he has problems making it happen. After finding out about Rusty’s crush on Kate, Bill tells him that he should tell her how he feels. He’s scared that Rusty isn’t making enough experiences for himself. So, like in most cliche teen films, Rusty finds Kate at a party where he saves her from her asshole boyfriend and takes her home. Kate is quick to latch onto Rusty and the two develop a relationship, but Rusty is inexperienced with this type of thing and Kate has a drug problem.
When it comes to the acting, everyone here does a decent enough job. I haven’t seen Lily Collins act much besides maybe her small role in The Blind Side, but I have to say she does a pretty fantastic job here. She’s definitely a standout. Knowing Logan Lerman, I would expect him to be cast as Rusty rather than Lou, but it’s nice to see him in a different type of role, as someone more confident with himself and his life. His role as a college student is also closer to his age.
Jennifer Connelly and Greg Kinnear have some on-screen chemistry, able to give subtle hints that they have feelings for each other, but never quite overreaching. Kristen Bell’s role in the film might be a little oversold perhaps in hopes of attracting more people, but she does a fine job as well. And former child star Nat Wolff does an okay job. It’s kind of nice to see him growing up and taking on more mature roles. In my opinion, he has a bit of a weaker performance than the rest, but that might be due to his weaker storyline.
Stuck in Love succeeds in being complex enough to keep the story going, but not taking on too much at once. Romance movies with ensemble casts have become more predominant in recent years, but the idea of focusing on one family is probably better, as the characters are given a little more depth. This doesn’t stop characters and storylines from being a little thin though.
Like mentioned earlier, Rusty and Kate’s story is weaker than the rest. It’s interesting, but doesn’t delve quite deep enough to tell the story sufficiently. We get a bit of a feel for Rusty as a person, but his girlfriend, Kate, is pretty much paper thin. She has a drug problem, but it’s never expanded on. Sure, she’s shown doing some drugs at the party, and an overdose towards the end of the film leads to problems with their relationship, but the two aren never shown talking about it. What the audience gets to know about her is that she has a drug addiction and she has a favorite CD she gives Rusty for Christmas. The basic idea is that Rusty is so blinded by his first love that he can’t see how much of a problem Kate has, but the audience isn’t able to see it either, or much else of her for that matter.
The other two stories are a little more interesting and seem to be based on more real feelings and grounding experiences. Bill made a promise years ago to wait for Erica if she was ever “stupid enough to leave him,” but everyone else, including Erica, is trying to get him to stop waiting and start dating again. There are subtle hints that Erica misses Bill, but her main issue is with Samantha, who refuses to speak to her. Samantha has her own problems facing trust issues with Lou.
The latter two storylines are more interesting than the first, but when it comes down to it I’m not sure either would be interesting enough to last on their own. It makes me thankful that Stuck in Love has decided to go the route it did. The movie’s interesting enough. You won’t lose your focus and it will have your attention. It’s worth watching, but don’t expect to dive too deep into the story. It’s fairly light.