Directed by: James Ponsoldt
Teen “coming of age stories are a dime a dozen, and truthfully, most of them are overpriced at that exchange rate. Still, every once in a while we come across a film that tells us a truth and (in some small part) shows us a reflection of ourselves, our friends, or just hits that responsive chord. The Spectacular Now is one such film. It tells the story of Sutter Keely (Teller), a Florida high school senior, who lives in the now, which is to say that he is always in the precise moment that he is in. He never really considers the consequences of his actions, not dwells on either the future, nor the past. Not that there is anything spectacularly wrong with that.
To be sure, this “living in the now” attitude of his isn’t all that bad a thing, as it allows him to truly to enjoy the moment in which he finds himself. Sutter, you see, is really a happy-go-lucky kind of kid. He enjoys life, his friends, and the life he is living, plus he tends to make those around him feel good about themselves as well. All of this comes into play when you consider all aspects of his rather unspectacular existence, making the “now” a rather good place for him to spend his time. All things considered, Sutter is really quite a charming and self-possessed young lad. Not only is he always the life of the party, he loves his job at a locally-owned men’s clothing store, and has absolutely no plans for the future other than to simply enjoy himself.
On the down side, he is a budding alcoholic, as he is never far from his supersized, whisky-fortified drink. But after an unfortunate misunderstanding caused his girlfriend to dump him, Sutter gets thoroughly drunk and wakes up on some random lawn, with no idea of where his car is, and with the very ordinary Aimee Finicky (Woodley) hovering over him. Now, Aimee is so totally not only not a member of the cool crowd (with whom Sutter hangs), she’s different; She’s a nice girl who reads science fiction, doesn’t have a boyfriend, and does her mom’s paper route. She also has have dreams of the future — so while Sutter lives in a world of impressive self-delusion, she has her feet firmly planted in the Earth, and sees a direction for the future.
And yet they’re drawn to each other. Somehow these two lost souls connect with each other in a way that would never have happened in the normal course of events. Yet, as the film progresses we come to learn that they are not only supremely ideal for each other; they are actually each other’s salvation. In fact this film is so engrossing that it totally draws you into their lives in such a way that (nearly) causes you to forget that you are watching a staged event and actually dropping in on someone’s lives. Go, watch it and be prepared to be amazed.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.