My younger daughter recommended a film this week. As a drama major college grad, she knows film and screen-writing and critiquing. With her ever-expanding knowledge of film and a viewing history few can match (unless maybe TCM‘s Robert Osborne), I’m pleased to heed her recommendations.
I’m a long-time movie lover (I suspect her husband blames me for his wife’s “addiction”), but I can’t claim any measure of expertise. For the most part with me, it’s like or dislike − two, three, or four stars. I don’t think I’ve ever given any film one star, though I think if I were watching Chariots of Fire or Gone With the Wind or The Lives of Others on Netflix, they’d get five stars from me. (Few others would have that distinction.)
Stuck In Love. The tag line says: A Story About First Love and Second Chances. Sounds like a winner, but I had doubts it would match my hopeful expectations.
As it turned out, I found the film enjoyably quirky, which means it earned four stars. The characters were all likable, but in unexpected ways. Greg Kinnear plays the head of a floundering family; he’s a best-selling author, a Pen Award recipient, and an occasional dispenser of reflective wisdom. We discover he hasn’t produced new material in the three years since his divorce.
Jennifer Connelly plays Kinnear’s ex-wife, now remarried to a hunk. Connelly is predictably elegant with an endearing touch of melancholy which the film explores nicely. She adores her children and is terribly shattered by her daughter’s estrangement.
Lily Collins and Nat Wolff play the teenaged offspring of Kinnear and Connelly, working in their own ways (sometimes self-destructively) to deal with the hiccups life has thrown at them. All four main characters effectively portray both toughness and vulnerability and the casual style to the film lends credibility: you believe this is real (but sucky) life.
Given Kinnear’s character is a writer, as the narrative progressed, it became clear to me he’d passed his love of writing onto both children. Daughter Samantha (Collins) comes home from college for Thanksgiving and announces her first novel is about to be released. Son Rusty (Wolff) is still working his way through high school and awkwardly reads his free verse poem aloud in class. (The poem makes an oblique reference to a pretty girl sitting in the third row. Did I say awkward?)
I was amused to learn Kinnear (years prior to the movie timeline) gave his children a permanent writing assignment: to maintain their own private journals everyday. As we learn more about the offspring, it’s easy to understand that for them the writing habit has bloomed into the potential for something beyond a private journal. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but if you’re a writer, you won’t be disappointed with this film.
Stuck In Love seems an apt metaphor for the characters in this film. Each feels the pain associated with first love. Each takes comfort in the possibility of second chances. The film doesn’t gloss over how messy relationships can be … and frequently are.
[Warning: this movie is rated R, so if you’re not a fan of unmarried intercourse (implied or depicted), you might decide to give this movie a pass.]
In that regard, I’d like to say one thing about so many of the movies I’ve watched in recent years. There’s a theme that runs through the majority and it goes something like this: if you’re fifteen years of age or older and you haven’t had sex, get out there and get ‘er done! With the number of times I’ve seen this play out on the screen, it has evolved into a tiresome and annoying cliché!
And please don’t call me a prude. Just once, I’d like to see one of these youngsters stand toe-to-toe with the boorish adult and say something like: My life, my timetable. MYOB!
A BONUS for writers: Kinnear’s character Bill throws out an occasional literary reference (one from Flannery O’Connor) and such small nuggets always please me.
Another BONUS for writers: being careful not to telegraph the ending for you, I think the ending offers another nice touch. (My daughter hinted at something − I won’t say what − and unfortunately, by the last third of the film, I knew what might be coming.)
So I’ll say no more here. Watch it!