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TORONTO — Shamelessly formulaic but warm-hearted and eager to please, Josh Boone‘s Writers introduces viewers to three kind, patient men and the women whose weakness or cynicism they must overcome. The film doesn’t have a whole lot to say about life behind the keyboard, but that won’t bother date-night auds, many of whom will find it touching enough to recommend to friends.
Respected but stalled novelist Bill Borgens (Greg Kinnear) has spent three years carrying a torch for ex-wife Erica (Jennifer Connelly), much to the dismay of his children Samantha (Lily Collins) and Rusty (Nat Wolff). The younger Borgenses, raised to keep journals and write for publication, have developed opposite views of love in response to Dad’s broken heart: Inexperienced Rusty is a romantic in the throes of his first unrequited crush (on Liana Liberato‘s Kate, who already has a louse of a boyfriend), while promiscuous college student Samantha eagerly spouts her tritely cynical take on love (a more sour version of speeches heard in innumerable rom-coms just before the victim feels Cupid’s dart) at any frat boy dumb enough to buy her a beer.
As Samantha meets the one boy persistently sweet enough to pierce her shell (Logan Lerman) and Rusty makes a bold play for Kate, Bill has afternoon trysts with married neighbor Tricia (Kristen Bell), who treats sex as just one more stage in her daily cardio regime. Like any good neighbor-with-benefits, Tricia eventually decides to give Bill a makeover so he can attract women on the Internet. The likeability quotient is high enough in the cast (particularly with Kinnear and Wolff) that these plots are more involving than tiresome, despite a script in which a drug addiction or terminally ill mother is just a prop to trigger one character’s caring instincts for another.
In between all the love connections, there is superficial talk of the writer’s life: Samantha is publishing her first novel; Bill can’t write since Erica left; Rusty is still in his Stephen King-Is-God phase. Characters ask each other to name their favorite books; elders tell amateurs they need to experience life so they can write about it.
The film’s headiest literary ingredient suggests a tone-deafness that might make us grateful Boone didn’t lean harder on his bookish themes. He twice works lines by Raymond Carver into the script, using the end of “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” over the final scene. If Boone sees common ground between the nearly unbelievable happy ending of his film and Carver’s short stories, so full of haunting non-resolutions, he may not have it in him to convince us his fictional fiction-writers are the real thing.
Production Company: Informant Films
Cast: Kristen Bell, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins, Logan Lerman, Greg Kinnear, Liana Liberato, Nat Wolff
Director-Screenwriter: Josh Boone
Producer: Judy Cairo
Executive producers: Eric Brenner, Patrick W. Dugan, Michael Ilitch Jr., Dale Armin Johnson, Julie B. May, Glenn Murray, Jeff Rice, Michael A. Simpson
Director of photography: Tim Orr
Production designer: John Sanders
Music: Mike Mogis, Nate Walcott
Costume designer: Kari Perkins
Editor: Robb Sullivan
No rating, 96 minutes
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