Film Review: Stuck in Love

marla pachter is in love … with this movie …

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With all the sequels and generic blockbusters coming out this summer, it’s easy to get rather cynical about the film industry. For months I’ve seen nothing but trailer after trailer of recycled crap promising to be epic. Let’s just say my only optimism about going to the movies this summer revolved around saving money on my electric bill by basking in the high powered AC of the theater. Then, a film like this one comes along, smacks me in the face with its brilliance, and reminds me why I love cinema.

Stuck in Love is not a story we haven’t heard before, nor is it a story that sounds particularly interesting when explained. So why should you care about it, right? Well, 1.) because I said so (obviously) and 2.) because it successfully takes this material we’ve seen in a thousand movies, and actually makes it worth watching – which is very hard to do.

Stuck in Love revolves around a family of novelists, all in different stages of love in their lives, taking you through a year of their trials and tribulations from Thanksgiving to Thanksgiving. The father, Bill Borgens, played by Greg Kinnear, is the acclaimed writer of a successful book, who actually pays his son, Rusty (Nat Wolff) and daughter, Samantha (Lily Collins) to keep journals, so they don’t have to get jobs to distract from their writing. This not only will make every writer who watches the film extremely jealous, it also provides for some of the most interesting character intros — all three are introduced to us by narrating their current situation as an entry in their journal. You can already tell this isn’t your typical RomCom, can’t you?

Three years ago Bill’s wife (Erica, played by Jennifer Connelly) left him for a younger, fitter man. Yet Bill can’t seem to let go, stalking Erica, watching her and her new flame from their first floor window, setting a place for her at the Thanksgiving table just hoping she’ll come home to him. It’s interesting though, he doesn’t seem that pathetic. I mean, sure, with a character like this there’s bound to be some level of patheticness, but Kinnear plays Bill Borgens with a poetic sense of romanticism, fitting of a novelist. He’s not broken up or incapable of living his life. He’s truly just a man who understands his wife has made a mistake, and that one day she’ll realize it and return to him. In the meantime, he’s content to spend his afternoons screwing his hot, young, married neighbor Tricia. She’s played by Kristen Bell, so I mean, who wouldn’t be content with that?

Rusty, like his father, is a bit of a hopeless romantic. But he’s a high school student who has naivety and youth on his side. He’s in love with a girl who he doesn’t know at all, but weren’t we all in love with someone based solely on their beauty at that age? Under encouragement from his father, who is convinced he is not having enough life experiences to be a good writer, Rusty woos his lady in question, and does win her over. It’s high school, so all it took was writing a poem about her and punching her boyfriend. Throughout the film Rusty learned the ups and downs of his first love. Nat Wolff gives another outstanding performance here, coming off his latest role as Tina Fey’s smart and eccentric potential son in Admission.

And then there’s Samantha, my favorite part of the film. Something I really enjoyed about this film is that the men were hopeless romantics and the women were cynics. Women are cynical sometimes, you know. And they weren’t the Katherine Heigl cynic who has a stick up her butt and doesn’t have time for love because of her career, until one day she meets a sexy man who she hates instantly, and he annoys the crap out of her until she falls in love with him. No, no. These women were real cynics.

Erica has it a little bit, trying to get her husband to move on from her while acknowledging that her relationship with her young hottie might not be the best thing that’s ever happened to her. But it’s Samantha, who has seen the demise of her parent’s marriage and what it’s done to each of them, who doesn’t believe in love. She’s a wise-beyond-her-years college student with a penchant for promiscuity (because that’s what you do when you don’t believe in love, you fuck everything that moves) whose first novel (appropriately about sex and cynicism) has just been picked up by a publishing company. Man, Lily Collins. She’s going to be a star. That’s literally true, because she’s starring in the upcoming film adaptation of The Mortal Instruments.

Samantha’s journey doesn’t end there, though. She meets a boy named Lou (played by Perks of Being a Wallflower star Logan Lerman), who likes her and wants to break through her cynicism. They have a lot in common, and he’s just genuinely nice to her.

I’m not saying life is a fairy tale, and I’m not saying life should be a fairy tale. It’s hard to explain without giving the whole movie away, and I don’t want to do that because I highly recommend you go see it. It sounds cheesy, but I want you to know it’s not presented as a fairy tale. Samantha’s story is very realistic, and the way I see it, we just happen to be catching up with her at this moment in her life when she met the right person. Her whole view on life doesn’t change, but Lou does have the charm, common ground, and actual caring personality to be able to break down her walls.

Whether you’re a cynic or a hopeless romantic, if you like realistic films with excellent performances and interesting visuals, go see Stuck in Love. It’s just a slice of life, one year in the world of this one family. But it touched me in a way films rarely do these days.

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