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Mitchell's Top 20 Films of 2013: #18 "The Spectacular Now"

"The Spectacular Now" (2013)
"The Spectacular Now" (2013)
A24, 21 Laps Entertainment

18. "The Spectacular Now" - Ever since 1982‘s “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” reached the big screen, Hollywood willingly embraced stories which document the peaks and valleys of the high school experience.

The high school film became a genre itself, and producers and directors found room for comedies such as “Sixteen Candles” (1984) and dramas like “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” (2012) under its big tent.

The Spectacular Now” is a high school movie and brings similar drama.

Graduation anxieties, grades, dating, parental dynamics, and other stressful topics the average 17 year-old finds stressful are on display, however, it covers a serious subject matter in a way I’ve never seen a high school film: teenage alcoholism.

Director James Ponsoldt, who served up the poisonous consequences of alcoholism in a very effective movie called “Smashed” (2012), follows up with an equally insightful film here.

Sutter (Miles Teller) is a friendly and accommodating kid but also is a party boy slacker.

He goes through the motions in class but enjoys high fiving his friends in the hallways and looks forward to the next weekend bash.

When Sutter does sit long enough to do some homework or write an essay, he also sips on his “occasional” beer in between punching keystrokes on his computer, and the audience quickly sees alcohol is his nearly constant companion.

Ponsoldt takes a very different approach with the relationship of alcohol to the high school teenager in his movie.

While dozens and dozens of high school pictures glamorize the big kegger parties in admittedly hilarious and entertaining ways, this film shows the destructive pattern of everyday alcohol abuse and its collateral damage inflicted upon friends and family.

Shailene Woodley - who played the mouthy daughter in “The Descendants” (2011) - takes a turn as a studious nice girl named Aimee and falls for Sutter’s advances.

They soon become a couple who enjoy the warm feelings of a first romance but also struggle through their differences.

Unfortunately, for Aimee, she becomes the primary victim for Sutter’s drinking in small and large consequential ways.

A quietly powerful film.

Follow me on Twitter: @MitchFilmCritic

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