September 12, 2012



WRITERS is considered an “independent” movie because it was made without big-studio financing and because its stars (Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Kristen Bell) are familiar faces, but not at the level that sell tickets strictly on the basis of their names.  Beyond those business considerations, though, Josh Boone’s debut feature is as safe and predictable as any network 1-hour dramedy.

The film essentially tells the same story in 3 variations:  patient, compassionate men repeatedly wait for the unstable, mercurial women they love to come to their senses and appreciate the emotional comfort these men can provide, as all the women (Spoiler Alert!) ultimately do.  All 3 couples include members of the Borgens family, and all of the Borgens are writers.  Paterfamilias William (Kinnear), a famous and successful novelist, has had writer’s block since wife Erica (Connelly) left 3 years ago; he stalks her in an entirely unthreatening way, knowing she’ll return despite the fact that no one else believes him.   Daughter Samantha (Lily Collins), about to have her own first novel published, professes a cynical philosophy in which there is no true love and promiscuity is the smartest strategy–but kind-hearted Lou (Logan Lerman) can see through her tough facade.  And younger son Rusty (Nat Wolff), as-yet unpublished but toiling away on poems and short stories, is in the midst of his first love with beautiful yet troubled Kate (Liana Liberato), who’s been indulging in drugs and sex with the wrong kind of guy.

Writers throws around names like Raymond Carver and John Cheever (although the one much more famous novelist who makes a voice-over cameo isn’t exactly in their part of the library), yet it’s hard to believe that any of the supposed writers in the movie has actually read any of their works.  There’s no ambivalence here, or recognition that the real world and real emotions create difficult complications.  The movie’s view about love is simple-minded in the way of Hollywood cliche:  whichever woman gives you the most trouble and regards you with the most hostility is certainly the one for you.  To tell that story once lacks inspiration, but in a perfectly harmless way; repeating it 3 times in a single film, like repeating “Beetlejuice” over and over again, starts to seem like a superstition.

Despite its second-hand nature, Writers is perfectly enjoyable to watch.  For a first time director, Boone has a good feel for pace (the editing is by Robb Sullivan), and the movie looks better and more polished (cinematography by Tim Orr, who’s often worked with David Gordon Green) than several other films in the same genre  at Toronto this year, like Thanks For Sharing and Imogene.

The cast is attractive and skilled, making one glad to see ther respective couples come together even if the storylines are tidy to the point of smugness.  (Only Bell, who plays a dalliance of Kinnear’s rather than a full romantic partner, is the victim of lazily sketchy writing.)  Writers would be a pleasant enough way to spend 100 minutes if you happen across it on cable, but in its lack of real independence–and literacy–it doesn’t provide enough substance or originality to justify  the cost of a ticket.


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About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."