Stuck in Love Reviews
Great Film! The film is technically well-balanced between slick Hollywood production values and a relaxed indie look. The casting was great, as was the plot and story line. It was a touching story, where despite the indiscretions of a married couple, you had them rooting for each other to find their way back to each other and to bring their family together. The movie went fast and even though you hoped for a happy ending, you weren't quite sure how it was going to turn out. I won't spoil it, but the ride to the end was worth it. It is a cute, summer drama that is worth checking out.
Meet the Borgens. William Borgens is an acclaimed author who hasn't written a word since his ex-wife Erica left him 3 years ago for another man. In between spying on Erica and casual romps with his married neighbour Tricia, Bill is dealing with the complexities of raising his teenage children Samantha and Rusty. Samantha is publishing her first novel and is determined to avoid love at all costs - after all she's seen what it has done to her parents. In between hook ups, she meets "nice guy" Lou who will stop at nothing to win her over. Rusty, is an aspiring fantasy writer and Stephen King aficionado, who is on a quest to gain 'life experiences'. He falls for the beautiful, but troubled Kate and gets his first taste of love and a broken heart. A tale of family, love (lost and found), and how endings can make new beginnings. There are no rewrites in life, only second chances.
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?
A very personal story of the novelist Bill Borgens (Greg Kinnear) who has been struggling to keep it together since his wife Erica (Jennifer Connelly) left him for a younger man three years earlier is nothing extraordinary but that is a beauty of it: you can almost recognize and compare situations in this movie with everyday life around you... It is almost tragi-comical when you see our hero spying on her ex and her new husband while pretending to be jogging, and insists that their sixteen-year-old son, Rusty (Nat Wolff), set a place at the Thanksgiving table for Erica every year, even though she never comes. But, this year holiday is different - their nineteen-year-old daughter Sam (Lily Collins) comes home from college with momentous news: her first novel has been accepted for publication. When her father suggests that Sam share her good news with Erica, she balks, refusing to have anything to do with the woman she believes betrayed her father! As usual in life, the truth is always well hidden.
It is interesting to mention that in Australia and New Zealand the film will be released under the title of A Place For Me... but that won't stop the audience there to laugh at some of the ludicrous scenarios while being taken on a roller-coaster of emotions. My favourite here were the outstanding performance from Lily Collins and a very unexpected cameo from Stephen King. It is sometimes too light-hearted but definitelly worth seeing.
In this day and age, you can never tell whether an indie comedy is going to be fun or kind of slow, and really, even when you're watching this film, trying to tell doesn't get any easier, as the film is rather unevenly paced, being generally entertaining, if not kind of lively, but with more than a few limp spells that never descend into dullness, yet all too often bland things up in a way that's distancing enough when you disregard that pacing had to jar out of liveliness to reach slowness. Pacing is uneven, though it's not the only storytelling aspect that suffers from inconsistency, as character focus also struggles to keep consistent, even when it comes to characterization that, while well-rounded, has undercooked areas, partly because only so much time is spent on fleshing out one character and his or her side of the story before the film jars to another lead, convoluting the structure of this character drama with uneven character plays. The film isn't exactly all over the place, but it is kind of inconsistent, not only jarring its pacing from lively to limp, but jarring between leads in a somewhat messy fashion that waters down the full depth of the final product, which at least keeps consistent in an element that is just as damaging as the unevenness: the genericism. I opened this paragraph saying that it's hard to figure out whether as certain indie comedy will be entertaining or slow, but at this point, you can take it to the bank that an indie comedy of this nature is going to take arguably too much from a brethren, and sure enough, the film is formulaic something fierce, taking on familiar story element after familiar story elements until, before you know it, it becomes utterly predictable. You don't need much experience watching films like these to know where this particular film is heading, and that dilutes a sense of consequence, which, quite frankly, was always to be limited, because even though there's something compelling at the core of this down-to-earth little dramedy, there's not much meat to the story, and yet, writer-director Josh Boone still obviously wants to milk this film for all its worth, and telegraphs this through a palpable sense of ambition that may mold the charm which carries this film quite some distance, but also plagues the film with vulnerability. This was always to be a sensitive project, but the aspirations for success further settles the defense of the final product, whose limited assurance makes the limited flaws all the more glaring, until you end up with just another indie rom-com, complete with uneven pacing and focus, conventionalism, natural shortcomings and all around underwhelmingness. Nevertheless, the final product keeps you going, being not especially memorable, but nothing if not enjoyable enough to stand as quite decent, even when it comes to atmospheric artistic punch-up.
This indie film isn't quite as celebratory of its indie-heavy soundtrack as other indie films... indie, indie, Hindi (इंडी), and when it does kick on some tunes, they're kind of hit-or-miss, but the misses are never too glaring, and most every indie ditty, to one degree or another, perks things up a bit with a reasonably tasteful liveliness, much like Tim Orr's cinematography, which isn't too special, but with a sharp definition behind handsome lighting that catches your eyes time and again. Again, the film doesn't excel all that much on a stylistic level, but it's more technically impressive than your usual garden variety independently-funded fluff piece of this type, and yet, while there is a certain attractiveness to this film's style, what really brings this film to life is its script. Now, Josh Boone's screenplay isn't all that impressive, even with its unevenness disregarded, but the biggest problems with this film are primarily the doing of Boone's direction, because when it comes to writing, the newcoming Boone is particularly promising, offering colorfully down-to-earth, clever humor and dialogue, as well as characterization that may be undercooked in plenty of places, due to uneven character focus, but is generally pretty well-rounded, drawing somewhat questionable, but engaging and reasonably believable characters who are perhaps most sold by the performances. I'd imagine the film blows most of its limited funds on the cast, which is packed with some justly well-known talents who may be underwritten, but deliver on sharp chemistry that convinces almost as much as the engaging performances by the individual talents themselves, whether we're talking about Greg Kinnear as an intellectual whose sharpness is tested by family affairs, or Jennifer Connelly as a woman who is estranged from her loved ones by a questionable new relationship, or Lily Collins as a young intellectual who receives harsh lessons on what she doesn't yet know as she comes of age, or Nat Wolff as a promising lad held back by limitations in initiative. I wish that the performers were more evenly played up, because just about every member of this colorful cast turns in a performance that engages even more than Boone's offscreen performance as director, which, even then, also endears. Boone, as director, pumps a lot of heart into this project of very limited potential, and such ambition reflects shortcomings, but at the same time, it breathes a lot of life into the liveliness that keeps the film going as quite enjoyable, keeping entertainment value going more often than not, breaking it up with moving moments, and consistently backing it with one of the film's most commendable attributes: immense charm. Really, there's not a whole lot to praise about this film, as there's not a whole lot to this film to begin with, but the charm that goes into this film, alone, makes the final product reasonably memorable, and the style, writing and acting don't exactly hurt, no matter how much shortcomings drive the final product into underwhelmingness.
In conclusion, unevenness in pacing and character focus distance engagement value, as does the predictability, overambition and natural shortcomings that ultimately get the film "stuck" as underwhelming, and yet, there's still enough liveliness to the soundtrack and cinematography, cleverness to the writing, effectiveness to the performances and charm to the direction to make Josh Boone's "Stuck in Love" an entertaining and often even rather compelling indie romantic dramedy, even if the fair deal of missteps hold things back quite a bit.
2.75/5 - Decent