There are many writerly lines in “Writers.,” helmer Josh Boone’s easygoing-bordering-on-anemic family drama. But the outcome is less like one of its character’s novels than a series of sketches that tax neither the intellect nor the nervous system, and barely cohere into a feature-length narrative. On the upside, Boone provides a worthy showcase for Greg Kinnear and Jennifer Connelly, actors who make the emotionally complicated look easy, and will likely help a name cast draw some numbers for a movie that’s frothy and accessible, but less than it might have been.
Occupying some of the same territory trod by “Smart People” (2008), the film concerns a family of would-be overachievers, in this case literary types at various stages of their artistic careers. The Brontes needn’t be concerned: Bearded and bohemian, Bill Borgens (Kinnear) is an well-known novelist who’s been in a bit of slump since his wife, Erica (Connelly), left him for another man; he can’t stop hanging around her house, spying on her and her boyfriend, and getting chased off by their dog.
He’s a good custodial father, though: His college-student daughter Samantha (Lily Collins) arrives home for Thanksgiving to announce that her first novel is being published by Scribners. Brother Rusty (Nat Wolf), is a high school nerd who writes poetry and stories, and aspires to the sci-fi status of a Stephen King (who does a voice-only cameo late in the film). Rusty’s on good terms with their mother, but Samantha has hated her since seeing Mom trysting with her lover on the beach in front of their spectacular house, the one with the third-story add-on that undoubtedly blocks their neighbors’ view of the sea.
The pic makes clear that they’re an entitled group. They’re also pretty annoying, which probably wasn’t the intention. But “Writers.” goes off in a lot of unintended, and unfulfilled, directions. Rusty’s in love with Kate (Liana Liberato), who’s 16 and looks 14. Samantha is something of a slutty bar crawler, and resists the persistent overtures of Lou (Logan Lerman), a genuine guy, despite his Justin Bieber haircut. Bill continues hoping against hope that Erica will come back to him, which only infuriates Samantha more. When Rusty sees Kate’s boyfriend push her at a party, he sucker-punches the jock, and has to spend of the rest of the movie fearing retribution.
But none of this adds up to much, and very early in the process, a feeling arises that everything is going to resolve itself very tidily.
On the other hand, Kinnear and Connelly, both of whom know how to share emotional honesty, have some terrific moments; one only wishes there was more substance behind what they’re up to.
Production credits are adequate, although the lensing doesn’t do many favors for Connelly or Collins.