Jan 13, 2015

Review: The Spectacular Now (2013)

I still remember the storm that The Spectacular Now cooked up in the summer of 2013. Premiering at the Sundance Film Festival, it was very well received and got a lot of people talking. I was worried I'd never see it for a long time because of my movie selection system, but it's a good thing I have a girlfriend with such good taste who had the night's choice.

Besides Shailene Woodley's role in The Descendants, I haven't really seen her in anything else before. Miles Teller is a different story though and I'll probably never be able to forgive him for being in Project X and 21 & Over. What kind of agent suggests doing two party movies in two years anyway? Glad he's moved onto better stuff like 2014's Whiplash for example, but I'm kind starting to doubt that The Fantastic Four reboot is going to be all that good. The lack of marketing is a bit worrisome for a project like that. All I can say is that I hope Josh Trank and his team can prove me wrong.


Genre: comedy, drama, romance
Directed by: James Ponsoldt
Produced by: Michelle Krumm, Andrew Lauren, Shawn Levy, etc.
Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber
Music by: Rob Simonsen
Running time: 95 minutes
Production company: Andrew Lauren Productions, 21 Laps Entertainment, Global Produce
Distributed by: A24, E1 Films Canada, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $2,500,000
Box office: $6,854,611 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Dayo Okeniyi, Andre Royo, Bob Odenkirk, Kaitlyn Dever, Masam Holden, Gary Weeks, Whitney Goin, Nicci Faires, Ava London, Levi Miller, E. Roger Mitchell, Kaitlyn Dever



There's probably no high school senior who's happier than Sutter Keely (Miles Teller). He's in love with his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson), he enjoys his popular status at school and he's got a pretty good job in a clothing store for men. However, things go sour between him and Cassidy which really upsets him. After a drunken night, he's woken up by fellow senior Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley) who's confused to find him on her front lawn at six in the morning.


There's nothing like realism in movies is there? You've think that Hollywood works in a vacuum with how out of touch movies can be at times. Whether it's on purpose for escapism purposes or not, writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber have been able to successfully translate Tim Tharp's novel of the same name into a genuine coming-of-age story that features teenage characters who could be found anywhere in North America right now.

Of course, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley both contribute largely to the realistic effects of The Spectacular Now. James Ponsoldt clearly gets them on the right path and it's just unbelievable to watch as these two blossom together. Teller is infectiously charismatic and funny while Woodley is just too cute with her awkward and shy interactions with Teller's character. I couldn't get enough of these two.

Miles Teller plays a popular clown-type character who has a big drinking problem. I'll admit that I was a bit skeptical due to his roles in Project X and 21 & Over like I said, but Teller effortlessly won me over in time. Woodley is easy to like however from the get-go. With no makeup (or what looks like no makeup) and a quiet demeanor, Aimme is really different from Sutter and this is shown quite nicely without being too showy about it. She doesn't have a "story" or a "thing," unlike Sutter.

Their relationship progresses very nicely. (Spoilers) Their sex scene in particular is so perfect and so human. There's no music which reinforces that. It's just the two of them awkwardly being teenagers and it's beautiful. (End Spoilers) One thing that's very frustrating but that I appreciate at the same time is that you don't know everything that's going on in Sutter's head. Does he truly love Aimme or is he using her to get back with Cassidy again? I wanted to punch him in the face every he used Messages to talk with Cassidy over his Mac. (Spoilers) He even dances with her at prom despite taking Aimee as his date, an unforgivable sin according to my girlfriend. (End Spoilers) Still, you can't help but sympathize with Sutter, despite his flaws and that's not an easy thing to do. 

The Spectacular Now explores the big void that is post-high school education. Sutter discovers that he's pretty content exactly where he is and doesn't aspire to really do much else. He live in the now and that's all that's important to him. All he needs is his job, his car and he's happy. (Spoilers) This is one of the major reasons why his ex-girlfriend doesn't want to get back with him. She aspires to more and doesn't want to be influenced by him anymore. (End Spoilers) Sutter can't escape cold, hard reality though and it leads to many extremely poignant scenes.

I still can't get over just how excellent The Spectacular Now is. At times funny, bittersweet or cruel, it's a roller coaster of different emotions that manages to stay within the boundaries of real. Miles Teller won me over completely and Shailene Woodley had me from her very first scene. Perfectly directed and thoughtfully written, TSN is a coming-of-age film that is among the best I've ever seen.



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