Tuesday 12 January 2021

Movie Review: Stuck In Love (2012)

A romance with wry humour and low-key drama, Stuck In Love is a clever look at multiple emotional entanglements within one family. 

It's been two years, but published writer Bill Borgens (Greg Kinnear) is still not over the break-up of his marriage to Erica (Jennifer Connelly), who has moved on and remarried. Bill's two children are both aspiring writers: Samantha (Lily Collins) is in college and about to have her first book published, while high schooler Rusty (Nat Wolff) is big fan of Stephen King.

Bill enjoys casual sex with married neighbour Tricia (Kristen Bell) but continues to hope Erica will come back to him. Samantha is deeply hurt by her parents' divorce and not on speaking terms with her mother, but her cynical attitude towards romance is tested when she meets classmate Louis (Logan Lerman). Meanwhile, Rusty is encouraged by his father to take more emotional risks and pursues a relationship with troubled classmate Kate (Liana Liberato).

In a compact 96 minutes, writer and director Josh Boone weaves three romances into one pleasing narrative. Stuck In Love avoids all the cliches associated with traditional romantic comedies, and instead focuses on well-rounded characters, emotional risk-taking, the healthy pursuit of sex, and perilous pathways to the pleasures of love. The agile pacing is augmented by bright dialogue and good balance between humour and poignancy.

Bill Borgens raised his two children to be writers, and Boone anchors his three protagonists in a literary milieu. Combined with a twee musical selection, Stuck In Love sometimes overreaches into excessively arty terrain. But Bill, Samantha and Rusty are likeable and authentic characters defined by pragmatic foibles, and their roller-coaster love lives swoosh past the script's weaknesses.

Daring to venture towards unfamiliar feelings is the underlying theme unifying the three stories. After witnessing the disintegration of her parents' marriage, Samantha has withdrawn into a hard shell, seeking only shallow sexual gratification and studiously avoiding any meaningful relationships. Louis keeps knocking on her heart until she yields to the potential for caring. Rusty is prodded by his Dad to enrich his life experiences, and is soon throwing a deserved punch and winning the heart of the popular but troubled Kate. And Bill himself has to decide if two years is long enough to wait for Erica as he tiptoes into the world of on-line dating with help from the cheeky Tricia.

In a radiant performance Lily Collins exudes confidence and fragility as Samantha's core beliefs are challenged. Greg Kinnear as the family head teases out the complexities of a husband coping with his own grief and a father barely keeping up with his children's needs. The other cast members all leave an impression and grasp their moments to shine.

The resolutions lean towards over-tidy, but Stuck In Love delivers three-for-one charm.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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