When Stuck In Love. premièred at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, it was called Writers. Both titles are accurate, as far as they go: The main characters are all established or aspiring authors, and they all have romantic difficulties. Greg Kinnear plays a well-respected novelist who’s won the PEN/Faulkner award twice (we know this because someone tells him, during a get-your-shit-together speech, “You’re a well-respected novelist! You’ve won the PEN/Faulkner award twice!”); Jennifer Connelly divorced him two years earlier, but he’s still waiting for her to return to him, even though she’s since remarried. His 19-year-old daughter (Lily Collins) has already written two novels, one of which has just been accepted for publication, but her parents’ divorce has made her deeply cynical about long-term relationships, causing her to spurn nice guys and pursue meaningless one-night stands. And his teenage son (Nat Wolff), who worships Stephen King, has a new girlfriend (Liana Liberato) who’s hiding a very serious drug problem.
As writer-director Josh Boone introduces these characters, he superimposes words on the screen to suggest how they channel their thoughts and conversations into their work. But that’s the extent of the film’s interest in writing, which serves strictly as a “classy” backdrop for a series of painfully contrived amorous meltdowns among a family who might as well run a dry-cleaning business. Just like most romantic comedies (though this is more of a “rom-dram”), Stuck In Love. believes nothing is worthier than refusing to give up after you’ve been rebuffed in no uncertain terms. Collins gets ardently pursued by a classmate (Logan Lerman) who ignores her overt lack of interest, finally scoring a date by just grabbing her jacket and walking away. (How charming!) Even more incredibly, Kinnear’s stalking of Connelly—he spends much of the film lurking outside her house, peering through windows—gets vindicated by her last-minute change of heart. None of this reflects reality in any way… but then, this is a movie in which a teenager writes a novel, tosses it aside when her dad’s editorial suggestions make her feel like it’s no longer her book, and just writes another novel “over the summer.” By the time King makes a phone-only cameo to praise the son’s latest short story, Under The Dome seems like neorealism by comparison.