A young man daydreams in class, staring at the beautiful girl sitting next to him. His thoughts appear on screen. Yes, he is a writer. One day he hopes of achieving the level of his idol, Stephen King. But first he has to write something.
A true ensemble piece, “Stuck In Love” is a well intentioned film that comes across at times more as a novel then a movie. This could be due to the fact that first time writer/director Boone wanted to be a writer. He too has a thing for Stephen King so it’s obvious that the daydreaming young man, Rusty (Nat Wolfe) is his alter ego. Rusty’s father, William (Kinnear) is a successful author and his sister, Samantha (Collins), has just sold her first book. To the same company that publishes King. As Thanksgiving approaches the three begin preparations for their dinner. William sets an extra place for his ex-wife, Erica (Connelly) who left him three years ago and is re-married. William is convinced that she will one day return. Samantha hasn’t spoken with her mother for over a year, fueled by the sadness her father feels. Things aren’t helped by the fact that William will occasionally drop by Erica’s house and peer into the windows. When he sees her fighting with her new husband he’s emboldened, but then quickly deflated as they make up and embrace. Rusty is looking for love, Samantha is dead set on avoiding it. And William is willing to wait for it to return.
A little heavy-handed at times, “Stuck in Love” is saved from the maudlin pile by its stellar cast. Kinnear is quite vulnerable here, a man who lost his will for writing when his wife left. As his children, Wolfe and Collins play well off of each other like water and oil, though they have more in than they may want to admit. Both discover, in their own ways, their first loves, and they are changed by the experiences. As Kate, the object of Rusty’s affection, Liana Liberato is often heartbreaking. Her life hasn’t been easy and it’s hard for her to accept the fact that Rusty loves her for HER, not for the ulterior motives others have in the past. Samantha meets a fellow member of one of her writing classes, Louis (Logan Lerman). He is the opposite of Samantha, or so she thinks. But he eventually finds a way to get under the armor she’s put up around her.
Two subplots throw the film off track. One, concerning Louis’ ill mother, feels like an afterthought and really just a way to get the young couple to connect. Another introduces us to Kristen Bell as a married woman who stops by periodically for some “friends with benefits” action with William. I’m sure if this had been a book these points may have been expounded on but, as they are, they’re really mild interruptions of the main story. Maybe Boone will take the time and publish it some day.