Release Date: June 14, 2013 (Limited)
Director: Josh Boone
MPAA Rating: R
Film Pulse Score: 5/10
“Love stinks yeah yeah.” Well that’s what the J. Geils Band tells us. It can leave us emotionally guarded. It can leave us hoping against hope that it will come back to us after it’s gone. It can confuse us, blind us, mystify us and make us swoon all at once. It can tear us apart. “Love stinks yeah yeah.” But then again as another fine group once told us “all you need is love.” Josh Boone, in his feature directorial debut, looks at love and all of its trappings and complexities.
Bill Borgen, the patriarch of a family of writers, is a divorced, successful writer who still longs for his ex-wife Erica. Despite her leaving him for another man he knows she’ll come back to him. At least that’s what he keeps telling himself. Their daughter Samantha is a newly published author who is emotionally guarded and refuses to be in a serious relationship. Their son Rusty is a bit introverted and pines for his perfect girl but lacks the courage to pursue her. This is how we meet the family and you can pretty much start speculating just how things are going to go from there.
All of the relationships feel natural but the problem is that in the grand scheme of things it all feels a bit overwrought especially when it starts taking dips into the melodramatic pool. There are moments that simply feel unnecessary and appear to only exist for sentimental reasons. It really would have felt better if Boone had the conviction to keep it real and not go for the “happy ending.” Show the pain and the growth you may gain from a broken relationship. It’s unfortunate that most of the relationships start out nicely and feel real but they slowly fall victim to Boone feeling the need to put some sort of obstacle in their path. Some feel natural while others just come out of left field.
Despite this the film somewhat works in a way thanks to the performances. Greg Kinnear is great as Bill and Lily Collins is solid as his daughter Samantha. They have a natural rapport and you can buy them as father and daughter. Nat Wolff fairs well as Rusty and Liana Liberato is good as his love Kate. Jennifer Connelly is quite good as Erica. The only one who doesn’t seem to do as well is Kristen Bell but that’s mostly due to the fact that her part is fairly underwritten and she does what she can with it.
As romantic comedy/dramas go this one is serviceable. It features solid, natural performances but has a fairly methodical structure that is eventually steep in melodrama, which unfortunately brings the film down. This film really could have used some more of that “love stinks” and not “love conquers all” vibe. At least it would have felt more real and believable.