Coming of age films pale in comparison to ‘The Spectacular Now.’ Why is it so compelling to watch? With the help from the screenwriters of ‘(500) Days of Summer,’ director James Ponsoldt has molded characters that seem real. At times, the story makes you laugh and at other times, it tugs at your heart. This film will please adults and teens alike. Ponsoldt manages to capture that difficult transition from high school to adulthood. The two young leads bring their characters to life. The chemistry is palpable. Thanks to the magnificent performances from the leads, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, ‘The Spectacular Now’ is an authentic look at young love and growing up.
Life of the party Sutter (Miles Teller) is a popular high school senior. When he gets dumped by his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson), the shy straight-A student Aimee (Shailene Woodley) accidentally enters into his life. To shake off the break up, Sutter goes out for a hard night of partying. The next morning, he is woken up on the front lawn by an unknown classmate. Aimee is working her morning paper route. Sutter, always the opportunist, convinces her to help him find his car if he helps her with the paper route. Sutter throws each newspaper with purpose and Aimee feels the way he lives for the now. These opposites are attracted to each other but Ponsoldt wisely lets the story organically take shape. There is no fake love story here. It feels authentic.
The fascinating part is how the relationship slowly blossoms. Sutter asks Aimee to join him at a keg party but his ulterior motive is to see his ex-girlfriend. This gives Sutter and Aimee’s relationship a bit of ambiguity. Is Sutter really falling for her or is he treating her like a social experiment? Woodley gives a performance that is so natural and effortless. She won a Golden Globe nomination for her work in ‘The Descendants.’ Woodley will become a household name after her YA drama, ‘Divergent’ hits theaters. Her presence in ‘The Spectacular Now’ prompts Sutter to look at his home life and dysfunctional family. His hard-working mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and social-climbing sister (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) try to keep Sutter’s estranged father (Kyle Chandler) as far away from him as possible. The father and son reunion is heartwrenching to watch.
Sutter’s life has stalled. He is afraid to leave the safety net of high school. They both find strength with each other. Sutter helps Aimee get out of her shell. He even introduces her to his liquor flask. It’s an interesting plot device. Even though the story doesn’t center around alcohol addiction it’s always a looming concern since Sutter constantly sips on it. After Sutter asks Aimee to tutor him in geometry, the relationship starts to grow. Sutter has a job at a men’s clothing store, a car and the last thing on his mind is applying to colleges. He never thinks about the future, he thinks about the now. The future can look scary. “You gotta live in the moment,” he chants as a way to justify his way of life. “I don’t see what’s so great about being an adult.” Sutter is a good kid that is simply overwhelmed by the unknown future. Who isn’t at certain times in their life?
‘The Spectacular Now’ has many of the trappings of other teen films like the Prom and keg parties but it transcends those clichés. Teller and Woodley bring a strong authenticity to their characters. As the story turns dark, you want everything to work out for them. Ponsoldt shoots his scenes with patience. The long, uninterrupted takes accentuate the intimacy growing between the young lovers. Aimee has concerns of her own. She’s worried that she won’t be able to escape Georgia for a college opportunity in Philadelphia. They both help each other with their insecurities. Director James Ponsoldt, who directed the indie hit, ‘Smashed’ is an actor’s director. He gets his young actors to express the confusion and insecurity that all teenagers face. It’s an emotional journey of a young man on the cusp of adulthood.
Don’t miss 'The Spectacular Now' playing at The Flicks and a local theater near you.. Check out the official movie trailer: http://youtu.be/XDTBLSkUmYk.