Stuck in Love is a fairly schmaltzy comedy-drama telling the intertwining tales of love and heartbreak of a family of writers, with a literary theme providing the backbone of the movie. Father and author Bill Borgens is still reeling after his wife Erica (Jennifer Connolly) left him for a younger, buffer man three years previously, while his kids Rusty (Nat Wolf) and Sam (Lily Collins) are weaving their own way through the complicated world of dating in high school and university.
As the patriarch of the family, Bill is fairly controlling, paying his kids to keep diaries when they were young to try and mould them into writers. His work paid off, and daughter Sam arrives home from college on Thanksgiving to announce the publication of her first book. Pride quickly turns to anger as Bill realises it’s not the book they worked on together, while her brother Rusty demonstrates an unhealthy amount of sibling rivalry.
As well as trying to steer his children’s lives, Bill spends a lot of time moping after his ex-wife, even taking to prowling outside her house at night to get a glimpse of her new life. Bill also maintains a friends-with-benefits relationship with his foxy neighbour (Kristen Bell), a married woman who wants him to move on from his wife and get back into the dating scene.
The break-up of her parent’s marriage has left elder daughter Sam scarred and cynical. As a quick-talking, snarky English major, she spends her time picking up mindless jocks at bars for meaningless one-night stands. However, when she crosses paths with one of her writing seminar classmates, all round good-guy Lou (Logan Lerman), she is forced to re-evaluate her approach to love.
In utter contrast to Sam, her younger brother Rusty is a hopeless romantic who has fallen for the troubled girlfriend of a high school jock. By reciting a poem in his English class (yes, really) Rusty manages to win her attention, but it isn’t plain sailing for his first relationship.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what grates with this movie, but a combination of occasional cringey dialogue, predictable plot and over-reliance on ‘quirky’ cinematic techniques, like having the narrator’s words typed out on the screen, makes it feel a little try-hard.
We’re meant to root for Bill, but it’s hard to reconcile his affair with his ‘woe-is-me’ demeanour, while Sam comes across as smug and condescending most of the time.
Subplots involving a terminally ill mother and a struggle with drug addiction feel wedged in to further the main character’s relationships, and feel manipulative rather than heartfelt.
However, performances are good across the board, particularly Greg Kinnear and The Perks of Being a Wallflower’s Logan Lerman, whose star is sure to rise even further with this release.