Another in a random series.
Stuck in Love is a pleasant indie movie from 2012 starring Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly. Here’s the IMDB summary:
An acclaimed writer, his ex-wife, and their teenaged children come to terms with the complexities of love in all its forms over the course of one tumultuous year.
What the summary leaves out is that both the kids are writers (or would-be writers) as well — the father (Kinnear) is determined to make them novelists like him. So we’re given a whole family full of writers, which is a recipe for dysfunction and angst if I ever heard one.
The writer/director, Josh Boone, drops quotes from Raymond Carver and Flannery O’Connor into the script and clearly has a sympathetic sense of the writing life. Here’s something he gets right: The movie begins with Kinnear preparing Thanksgiving dinner for his son, who is in high school, and daughter, who home from college. At dinner the daughter drops the news that her novel has been accepted by a major publisher. The predictable result is that dinner is ruined. The father is upset that she abandoned the novel he has helped edit and written an entirely different book over the summer; the brother is so jealous of her success that he can’t be at the same table with her. Writers are just awful!
Here’s what Boone gets wrong: The daughter writes a novel over the summer, sends it to her agent, who submits it anonymously and gets it accepted by a major publisher, and page proofs are ready by Thanksgiving? Really? In what universe? (I’m into the fifteenth month of working on my current novel, so I may be feeling especially grumpy about this part.)
The father has written two successful literary novels, but has had writer’s block since his wife left him. The writer’s block is reasonable; I’d be pretty upset if Jennifer Connelly dumped me. But, with no other apparent income, he still manages to live in a gorgeous ocean-front house and pay his daughter’s tuition to college. How does that work?
Later in the movie, the son writes an SF short story, which his sister gets hold of. Then what? Without telling the brother, the sister sends it to Stephen King, who loves it so much he gets it published in a major SF magazine and calls the kid to let him know. Of course. Happens all the time. (I remember the stories I wrote when I was in high school; just thinking about them makes me cringe.)
In other words, this is a typical movie world, where success comes too easily and is rewarded too much; love is what’s hard. It makes me appreciate the world of The Words, in which the writer is talented and hard-working, pours his soul into his novel, and gets exactly nowhere. That’s a lot more like the real writing life.