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Monday, October 21, 2013

DVD Review: Stuck In Love

Stuck In Love is a sweet drama about a family of writers, each of whom is coping with a different stage of love. Bill (Greg Kinnear) is a divorced man who still loves his ex-wife, Erica (Jennifer Connelly), and believes she’ll come back to him. His son, Rusty (Nat Wolff), is at the beginning stages of love with Kate (Liana Liberato). And his daughter, Samantha (Lily Collins), is determined to not fall in love.

The film introduces us to the three writers in three short scenes, one after the other. The film opens with a high school classroom scene, in which Rusty says in voice over, “I remember that it hurt – looking at her hurt.” And that line appears on the screen. We then meet Samantha, who is speaking to a man who is off camera, and her first words also appear on screen: “I never enjoy anything. I’m always waiting for whatever’s next.” And we hear the sound of someone typing those lines on a computer. And then we’re introduced to Bill, who is sneaking around outside his wife’s new home. He looks in through a window, sees her arguing with her new man, and smiles. We get some voice over, and the first several words appear on screen: “As I stood there staring through the window into my ex-wife’s new life…

All of this is in the pre-credit sequence before we even know that they are writers. It’s an interesting way to introduce them, to get a feel for what each of these characters is about by seeing them in relation to their take on love. And to have it as voice over, as if each of them is writing his or her life. Interestingly, Rusty’s words are hand-written on screen, while Samantha’s and Bill’s are typed. Bill is a published writer; Samantha is just about to get her first book published; Rusty’s writing is still confined to his journal. So it’s wonderful to set them up that way, and to distinguish Rusty’s writing from the other two right from the start.

The entire cast is quite good, but Greg Kinnear stands out as Bill, a man who really seems to tackle all of life from a writer’s perspective, even when dealing with his children. At one point he tells his son: “Rusty, I don’t think you’re experiencing enough. I mean, the reason that you’re comfortable leaving your goddamn journal here on my desk is because there’s nothing you’re trying to hide from me in your life, and that really worries me.” He tells Rusty to go get some experiences, because a writer is the sum of his experiences. Clearly, he uses different parenting tactics from most folks.

He’s proud of his daughter for getting published, but is upset that it’s not the book that he helped her with. She started another book on her own, and it’s that one that’s getting published. Perhaps he’s overbearing in that regard because he himself hasn’t written anything since his wife left. In an early scene, Rusty is having a second Thanksgiving dinner with his mom and her boyfriend. The boyfriend remarks that he’s surprised that Samantha is getting published, and that Rusty is still writing, because he felt their father basically forced them to be writers (by making them keep a journal and so on). It’s a really good scene, and a somewhat dramatic way of giving us important information.

Samantha is decidedly cynical, particularly about love, and we learn that this is because of how she perceived her father was treated by her mother. Of course, since she is determined to avoid love, she meets a really nice person, Louis (Logan Lerman), and begins to fall for him. The movie does feel a bit heavy-handed when dealing with her storyline, as it really hammers the point home that she’s not looking for love. As a result, she is really a jerk to Louis at first, to the point where as an audience member I am wondering why he’s even interested in her at all. I’d want to just smack her.

Rounding out the cast is the wonderful Kristen Bell as Tricia, the beautiful married neighbor with whom Bill is having something of an affair. She encourages Bill to start dating again, telling him, “You have a mild amount of celebrity, which is really all a writer can ask for.”

Because Bill is a writer, and comes at life from that perspective, there was a line that really annoyed me. When Rusty heads out to see Kate, Bill tells him, “Drive careful.” A writer would never say that, never use an adjective when an adverb is required. Sadly, the film also gives us that tired sequence of a man trying on various outfits while a woman critiques them.

There was one other scene that didn’t quite fit. Early on, Rusty punches Kate’s boyfriend after he pushed her to the floor. Then, very late in the film (with like only twenty minutes left), that guy and one of his friends attack Rusty in a convenience store. It’s ridiculous, because it comes months later. Wouldn’t he have attacked him in school like the Monday after the incident? I expected the scene, but not that late in the film. By then, we’ve completely forgotten about that character, and no longer care about him.

The one other element that stood out as odd for me was when Samantha tells Louis her favorite song is “Polythene Pam,” and Louis tells her that’s a good choice. If a girl told me that was her favorite song, I would have to question her extensively about it. I love The Beatles (as does everyone), but “Polythene Pam”?

Of course, these are fairly minor points. The film succeeds mainly because of its cast. Jennifer Connelly is always good, always interesting. And there is something so likeable about Greg Kinnear that he can allow himself to be overbearing, even nasty, without any fear of losing the audience. We just can’t help but like the guy.

Stuck In Love was written and directed by Josh Boone. This is his first feature film.

Special Features

The DVD includes a commentary track by writer/director Josh Boone and actor Nat Wolff. This is a really good commentary track. Josh Boone talks about how a lot of the film is autobiographical, that he did have a crush on a girl named Kate who had a drug problem. And the poem that Rusty reads in front of the class is a poem that Josh actually wrote and recited in school. He talks about getting the project off the ground. The film was shot in twenty days for just under five million dollars. He did a rewrite in order to get Jennifer Connelly on board.

The DVD also has “The Making Of Stuck In Love,” featuring interviews with Greg Kinnear, Lily Collins, Nat Wolff, Liana Liberato, Logan Lerman, Josh Boone and producer Judy Cairo. The interviews were conducted on set. Greg Kinnear talks about his character and working with a first-time director. Writer/director Josh Boone talks about how he based some of his script on his parents’ divorce and other elements from his childhood. He says he was raised by strict Christians, and wasn’t allowed to read Stephen King as a kid. (Stephen King’s books play a somewhat significant role in the film.) This special feature is approximately twenty-eight minutes.

Stuck In Love was released on DVD and Blu-ray on October 8, 2013 through Millennium Entertainment.

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