I developed a crush on “The Spectacular Now” when I first saw the trailer back in June. I’m a sucker for teen dramas. I found out it was a book and read the whole thing over Fourth of July weekend during my first excursion to a New York’s Jones Beach. Then, I started looking into the cast. I’d already fallen in love with Shailene Woodley in “The Descendants” and the fact she would play Hazel Grace in “The Fault In Our Stars” movie. I’d only seen Miles Teller in those crazy party movies like “Project X” and “21 and Over,” but I knew he could handle a dramatic role after watching him in “Rabbit Hole.” Over the course of the summer, this movie just consumed me. I got to see it before it was released in theaters and tracked down an iTunes event in SoHo that featured Miles Teller and the director, James Ponsoldt. Even after all the movies I’ve seen this year, it’s still one of the best. And this has been a great year for film. I pre-ordered the Blu-ray back in December and it was delivered yesterday. I can’t wait to watch it again this weekend. Everyone should take the time to see this perfect little film. If you need any further convincing, here’s my review of the movie I wrote for my feature writing class last semester. Enjoy!
Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), the endearing party boy, and Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley), an ordinary, modest student Sutter could have lived his entire life without noticing, are magnetically pulled together in James Ponsoldt’s film adaptation of Tim Tharp’s novel “The Spectacular Now.”
After Aimee discovers Sutter unconscious on the lawn of a stranger’s house during her morning paper route, she’s understandably confused. What is one of the most popular guys in school doing passed out on someone’s front lawn? Meanwhile, Sutter is reeling from an all-night drinking binge after being dumped by his girlfriend, Cassidy (Brie Larson).
Aimee asks him, “Do you live around here Sutter?” to which he replies, “How do you know my name?”
“We go to the same school,” Aimee answers. “You wouldn’t know who I am.”
From then on, Sutter is determined to bring due notice to the selfless introvert. Even though people might consider Aimee a wallflower, Sutter is drawn to her. Unlike most of the superficial women in his life, Aimee genuinely listens to him and falls for the flawed soul behind the boy-next-door façade.
Sutter is that guy: the life of the party, the high school senior with the sexy girlfriend and a decent job. It seems Sutter has it all together, yet a dark angst is hiding behind the glazed eyes of everyone’s favorite party boy. He’s debating on whether to even pursue college; he’s avoiding his mom’s (Jennifer Jason Leigh) pleas for him to get it together and stop acting like his father; and he’s dealing with the effects of the absent father (Kyle Chandler) he has fictitiously portrayed as a huge success to everyone around him.
But Sutter doesn’t stress about such trivialities. He wants to live today like it’s his last. Carpe diem.
Sutter is so hyper-focused on living in the now that he refuses to face his own future. He drinks from his whiskey-filled 7-11 cup to numb the pain of now. He has all his emotions filled to the brim in that oversized plastic cup.
The chemistry between Teller and Woodley is undeniably charged and a little unrefined, but all in the natural course of coming of age love. Despite his many flaws and the bad influence he sometimes has on Aimee, you find yourself rooting for the couple. From their unexpected first kiss to their final prom dance, Aimee and Sutter’s relationship is perfectly portrayed and not absorbed in unnecessary teenage melodrama. It’s simple. Sweet. Real.
As the relationship travels the ups and downs of senior year, we’re drawn to the unexpected turns life has in store for the unseasoned 18-year olds. In the path toward fading adolescence, Sutter deals with the repercussions of coasting through school. Sutter also confronts his father and realizes why his mother and sister (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) went to such lengths to keep the two distanced from one another. Meanwhile, Aimee steps out from under everyone’s control toward a bigger and brighter tomorrow.
The performances in this indie hit, which won a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival for acting, are contemporary and raw in what is clearly one of the best films of the year. Teller, who most frequently plays comedic roles, opens himself up like a fresh wound to play the charmingly damaged Sutter. Woodley is familiar with dramatic roles from her critically acclaimed role in 2011’s “The Descendants,” and this performance is no exception. She is so effortless, so natural, and so perfectly imperfect as Aimee.
Even though Sutter is few drinks away from becoming a raging alcoholic, “The Spectacular Now” never becomes an educational lesson in teenage drinking. Sutter is just so likeable, as damaged as he is, that you almost forget his flaws. He may not have his life mapped out, but you’ll never forget Sutter Keely.
If you’re the type to live in the now, that’s where you’ll find Sutter. You either live in the moment or look forward to the many moments to come. Either way, “The Spectacular Now” is a cinematic moment you’ll never want to recover from.