Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Markus Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
Rated R for alcohol use, language and some sexuality - all involving teens
Now playing at CineArts at Santana Row in San Jose, California:
I purposefully avoided watching “21 & Over” just so I could enjoy Miles Teller’s performance in “The Spectacular Now”.
Synopsis: Directed by James Ponsoldt, this film tells the story of Sutter (Miles Teller) a high school senior, who is the consummate ladies’ man, arguably the most popular kid in town and the life of every party. But underneath it all, he is flunking out of all of his classes and is basically an alcoholic. You get the picture. Anyway, after a bad breakup coincides with the sudden realization that he might not be graduating, could a chance meeting with a girl (a “good girl” type) played by Shailene Woodley, be enough to change Sutter’s outlook on his own future?
Using the generic “popular guy falls for the plain Jane” outline, “The Spectacular Now” rises above the formulaic because of its own well constructed Scott Neustadter/Michael H. Weber (500 Days of Summer) script (adapted from a Tim Tharp novel) which contains believable characters, all while developing a journey that isn’t nearly as predictable as another coming-of-age movie that came out earlier this summer. Make no mistake, that dig was directed at “The Way Way Back”. Aided by charming performances from Teller, Woodley, and a very interesting (to say the least) performance from Kyle Chandler, who plays Sutter’s estranged father, the characters in this script are allowed to blossom and take on an all too realistic feel. Even if you don’t like them, you feel as if you’ve met these people before. And thus, even if they begin as generic coming-of-age characters, they don’t stay that way for long. That was another dig at “The Way Way Back” if you hadn’t noticed.
Final Thought: From time to time, “The Spectacular Now” does meander in its dialogue. And it does contain one violently over the top sequence that initially had me in shock, but once I had a chance to take it all in, had me disregarding said sequence as nothing more than an unbelievable plot contrivance. But overall, the fact that this is so unapologetically realistic and the performances/writing are so strong, this is the type of film that will resonate on a deeply emotional level with many audiences; audiences who have been continuing their ongoing quest to find a coming-of-age movie that encompasses that John Hughes magic. And while “The Spectacular Now” didn’t quite sweep me away into the nostalgic open water like last year’s “Perks of Being a Wallflower”, this still contains the high level of quality that I expect (but rarely get) out of every coming-of-age movie. “The Way Way Back”, I’m still talking to you.
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