Every once in a while a film comes along and just floors you with how touching and genuine a simple little story can actually be, at least in the hopes of it not getting lost in the sea of big budget highly stylized films that are out there. "The Spectacular Now" is a stunningly tender and honest coming of age story about figuring out that next step that we all have to take in various times in our lives, but never more so then we are leaving high school.
Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) lives in the now and it's a good place for him. A high school senior who is charming and self-possessed and with little to no effort he's the life of the party where ever he goes. He loves his job at a men's clothing store, and has no plans for the future. A budding alcoholic, he's never far from his supersized, whiskey-fortified cup. However after being dumped by his girlfriend (Brie Larson), Sutter gets drunk and wakes up on a lawn with Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley) hovering over him. She's different: the "nice girl" who reads science fiction and doesn't have a boyfriend. While Amy has dreams of a future, Sutter lives in the impressive delusion of a spectacular now, yet somehow, they're drawn together.
With this is follow up from last year's touching and brilliant "Smashed", director James Ponsoldt has given us a spectacularly sweet and genuine dramaedy about the scary parts of growing up and moving on, as well as the genuinely scary moments as we look at the future and try not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Ponsoldt navigates this terrain with a soft and deft touch as this unlikely romance blossoms and screenwriters Scott Neustalder and Michael H Weber don't hit the us over the head with any hackneyed teenage stereotypes as it all unfolds in such a natural fashion avoiding as many clichés as humanly possible in order to craft a tender and relatable story that the audience can easily relate to and engage in. Something like "The Spectacular Now" can easily got lost in the pile of forgettable drama/comedies but it quickly rises above thanks to the pedigree of this ensemble cast who embrace the material with a real sense of warmth and understanding to it all.
Easily recognizable from films like "21 & Over" and the recent remake of "Footloose", Miles Teller slides into the role of the amiable Sutter Keely so well. He's likeable and everyone loves to party with him, but deep down we know he has his very own issues. Teller does excellent work as he peels back the layers of the character until we reach his core and he exposes all of his fears going out into the real world. Shailene Woodley from "The Descendants" is brilliant and touching as Aimee, showing how she is quickly separating herself from the pack as a star in the making. Her and Teller have excellent chemistry together and we ride their high and lows as a couple with such sweet precision that is a marvelous thing to watch. Smaller yet key performances came through with the likes of Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Bob Odenkirk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Brie Larson and Kyle Chandler in a brilliantly flawed portrayal of a man that we have never seen him bring to the screen in quite awhile all work very well together in concert with our two leads. These young lovers are flawed, yet perfect for each other and both wear the pain that some of their choices cause the other with such exquisite harmony and nuance, it was wonderful to watch.
In some way shape or form, we have all experienced "The Spectacular Now" in our own lives, but this film puts us back in that moment in time, where possibilities were infinite as long as we learned that one thing we all have to learn in our lives, how to love ourselves so we can love somebody else.
5 out of 5 stars.
"The Spectacular Now" is open now in Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver, please check with your local listings for show times.