Cast: Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins, Nat Wolff, Logan Lerman, Liana Liberato, Kristen Bell
Running time: 96mins
The lowdown: Family isn’t a word, but most definitely a sentence in Josh Boone’s fresh and funny debut drama. Greg Kinnear plays an acclaimed author pining for ex-wife Jennifer Connelly, who in turn is estranged from their daughter Lily Collins, while Nat Wolff as their son obsesses over a cute classmate and the novels of Stephen King. Bittersweet and charming in the vein of Crazy Stupid Love, this is well played, wryly observed and surprisingly moving.
The full verdict: Films that open with characters’ inner monologues written onscreen typically fall into a trench of insufferability.
That Stuck in Love avoids this despite wearing its indie credentials on its sleeve (and its soundtrack) is testament to writer/director Josh Boone’s assured handling of the material (even if the title proved trickier to come by, with the film previously being christened Writers and A Place for Me).
Breathing real life into his characters, he takes us through one year with two generations of the Borgens, all of whom are stuck in some kind of love bind.
Boone is also unafraid to make his characters intelligent and self-analyzing, again admirably avoiding the trap of slappable pretention. So daughter Samantha (Collins, daughter of Phil) is cynically jaundiced about intimacy and at war with her mother Erica (Connelly, conveying a range of emotion with one wounded smile).
Meanwhile, dad Bill (Kinnear, always great) is attempting to reconcile daughter with mother and spur his wallflower son Randy (hungrily played by Wolff) into asking out the object of his affection and get some life experience.
Alongside the witty dialogue and occasional well-handled melodrama, it is refreshing to see a movie that unabashedly extols the virtues of reading and writing (with even Samantha having a book published at 19 not coming across as drearily precocious).
Supporting players Lerman, an admirer to the reluctant Samantha, and Liberato, Rusty’s troubled love, also impress and by the final fadeout Stuck in Love has quietly developed into a rewarding, heartwarming experience.
Add to all this a funny extended cameo from Kristen Bell as Bill’s sport sex neighbour and a surprise call from one of the great authors of our times, and this is a movie to really write home about.