Starring Jennifer Connelly, Greg Kinnear, Lilly Collins and Logan Lerman, Stuck in Love (2012) is a romantic comedy about a dysfunctional family of writers, each with their own romantic dilemma to resolve. Yet, for a drama with such lofty literary ambitions, Josh Boone’s clumsy debut has all the intrigue, subtlety and wit of The Very Hungry Caterpillar – without any of its charm or imagination. William Borgens (Kinnear) is an acclaimed writer whose success has afforded him the luxury of living in a beach front house with his Stephen King-obsessed teenage son Rusty (Nat Wolff) and daughter Samantha (Collins).
Each of this successful trio is currently struggling with their own distinctive romantic hang-ups. William still wallows in a pit of self-despair after his wife Erica (Connelly) left him for a younger, more athletic man – spending his evenings stalking her new home and setting a place for her at the dinner table. Rusty and Samantha’s relationship issues are clearly a result of their parent’s broken marriage, with Rusty an insecure and introverted shut-in and Samantha compensating with a flurry of meaningless flings. However, regardless of the storytelling faculties of the Borgens’, each of them ends up on a clichéd trajectory of self-discovery and the meaning of true love.
Despite boasting an overqualified cast for such a trite piece, Boone’s hopelessly predictable American rom-com Stuck in Love fails to allow the charismatic personae of its cast penetrate the superficial and pompous veneer of their characters. Each character is plagued by typical middle class issues and, due to an abundance of narrative strands, the conflicts each character faces are resolved so unsatisfyingly that they might as well be non-existent. Nonchalant and laid-back almost to the point of near invisibility Stuck in Love’s blasé approach and apparent disinterest in breaking from the generic mold of such timid romances culminates in a monotonous tale that washes over you like a tepid summer breeze.
Thankfully, Lerman and Kristen Bell – in what are ostensibly little more than cameo roles – somehow manage to distract us from the film’s glib sentimentality and contemptible sense of self-entitlement. Their pleasant and pragmatic qualities almost blind us to the illuminated narrative signals leading the film along the streets of generic rom-com territories; dysfunctional family pull together in a crisis; true love conquers any catastrophe, etc. Perhaps the film’s most fatal flaw is attempting to tell the story of a family of novelists through a script with as much imagination as a feature-length school play, with lines such as “A writer is the sum of his parts” and “It hurts to see her hurt” too stale and contrived to be taken seriously.
Will the loner kid ever become popular? Will the cynical romantic ever learn to love? Most importantly, will the separated parents ever get back together? If these hideously generic storylines sound enticing then you might find Boone’s Stuck in Love a fairly amiable excursion into familiar terrain. For everyone else this twee indie romance is totally forgettable and one of the blandest films of the year.