The title of Josh Boone’s new film, Stuck In Love, ostensibly refers to novelist William Borgens’s (Greg Kinnear) debilitating three-year funk in which he gives over completely to pining for his ex-wife, Erica (Jennifer Connelly). But the writer-director is as interested in probing the romantic and familial issues plaguing the former couple’s two children as he is in providing a portrait of one man’s refusal to let go. As such, it’s a mixed bag. While cutting between the various through lines prevents the film from falling into the same monotone rut experienced by its lead character, it prevents Boone from devoting sufficient attention to all his narratives, leading to a round of too-hastily achieved reversals as the movie nears its end.
As William holes up in his beachside house, unable to write, pulling himself away from his Richard Ford novel only long enough to sneak peeks through the windows of the house that Erica shares with her new beau, his college-aged daughter, Samantha (Lily Collins), announces that she’s inked a deal to publish her first novel. Meanwhile, the girl’s high-schooler brother, Rusty (Nat Wolff), toils away on his own writing projects. Romantic tensions surface when nice-guy Lou (Logan Lerman) threatens to break down Samantha’s anti-relationship stance and when Rusty wins over a classmate, Kate (Liana Liberato), only to have her drug problems resurface. Familial dissonance comes courtesy of the subtly lingering resentments that result from William’s heavy-handed insistence on turning his kids into writers and, in more pronounced fashion, via Samantha’s refusal to have anything to do with her mother, whom she views as the responsible party in her parents’ breakup.
All this is a lot for one film to handle, and while Boone occasionally hits on some moments of familial truth (much of them having to do with William’s desire to shape his children into versions of himself), he doesn’t always handle the various threads with much grace. This is especially evident in the ways they resolve, which feel unnecessarily rushed and exude a whiff of social conservatism. Thus Samantha’s sexual self-determination is revealed as a pose adopted by a young woman who just hasn’t met the right guy yet, while the film’s conclusion hints at an unlikely reconstruction of the nuclear family. Similarly, Samantha’s re-acceptance of her mother seems to turn on a dime (or at least a single revelation), while Rusty’s surprising literary success (capped by a voice-only cameo by Stephen King) strains credulity a tad far. The result is a movie that aims for an admirable balance, but fatally upsets that equilibrium in its hurried resolutions.