The Spectacular Now: Spectacular in Every Way—Movie

Midway through “The Spectacular Now,” the high school class president says to 17 year-old Sutter (Miles Teller), “You’re not the joke everyone thinks.” Sutter takes the rest of the movie to come to that same conclusion.

The Spectacular NowIt would be easy to say that “The Spectacular Now” (directed by James Ponsoldt with screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber based on Tim Tharp’s novel), is a coming of age story, but it’s more than that. Underneath Sutter’s happy-go-lucky, screw-up façade, is a teenager with some pretty large obstacles to overcome. As the film begins, we learn that he’s lost his girlfriend, Cassidy, who has tired of waiting for him to grow up, and it’s not even certain that he will graduate. Alcohol is Sutter’s demon of choice and it is a bit jarring to see him nonchalantly drink from a flask.

After a night of partying and drinking, Sutter is found sprawled out on some neighbor’s lawn by Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a fellow classmate. Once she manages to rouse him, the two start talking and we see sparks begin to fly. This chance encounter impacts both of their lives in dramatic fashion. Aimee is smart, a bit of a nerd and completely unaware of how cute and special she is. Sutter is clever enough to realize that there is more to her than meets the eye.  And Aimee sees in Sutter someone who can bring her out of her shell as well as someone who has the potential to do and be more. As Aimee gets to know Sutter, so does the audience. Just like her, we begin to peel away the layers of his shtick and begin to see the real, scarred 17 year-old.

“The Spectacular Now’s” cast is impeccable. Both Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller were awarded the Sundance Film Festival’s U. S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting. Woodley is exceptional as the shy high school girl you know will blossom in college. She is part of the new generation of just-out of- their teen actresses doing fantastic work with a career full of possibilities before them.  Teller is perfectly cast as the high school kid everyone likes, but doesn’t respect…the kind of teen you later ask yourself, “I wonder whatever happened to him.” Sutter is an extremely difficult role to navigate and Teller handles it flawlessly. Jennifer Jason Leigh is extremely good in a small, but important role as Sutter’s hard-working mother who has a difficult time convincing him how good he can be. Finally, there is Kyle Chandler as Sutter’s MIA father. We’re so used to seeing Chandler as a good guy on television or a government worker in a host of films that it’s great to see him convincingly play a low-life character. He is phenomenal in the part.

If ever a movie was aptly named, it is “The Spectacular Now.” It’s not to be missed.

4 nuggets out of 4

 

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