Director: James Ponsoldt
Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Release Date: 5 December, 2013
The New Daily says: Adapted from Tim Tharp’s novel of the same name, The Spectacular Now chronicles confident 17 year-old Sutter Keeley’s transition from the careless exuberance of high school to the stark reality of the ‘real world’. After splitting from his popular girlfriend, Sutter stumbles into a relationship with schoolmate Aimee Finicky, a girl with humble roots and big aspirations. Sutter’s alcohol-tinged recklessness clatters and clangs against Aimee’s wide-eyed innocence as the two struggle to navigate the world and each other. Directed by James Ponsoldt, The Spectacular Now won the dramatic special jury award for acting at the Sundance Film Festival.
Put simply, this movie is exquisitely truthful. It carries with it all the charms of a coming-of-age romance with none of the stereotypical pitfalls, like sugarcoated love scenes and people-pleasing plot developments. The film is well and truly carried by the two leads – an electric Miles Teller, who deserves every comparison to a young Tom Hanks or John Cusack, and an unfailingly innocent Shailene Woodley, who gives you the sense that she is merely being her usual self, just in front of a camera.
With pared-back presentation (Woodley doesn’t wear makeup and Teller’s zits and scars are on full display) the film is a return to the beloved John Hughes’ teen flicks of the 1980’s, where teenagers looked like teenagers and had some pretty significant personality flaws. Ponsoldt can be congratulated for refusing to shy away from the accurate portrayal of less comfortable topics; alcoholism appears in all its frustrating incarnations and, in the film’s one sex scene, Woodley and Teller are jarringly vulnerable.
A few completely out of the blue twists and turns help to maintain the momentum, but The Spectacular Now doesn’t need any cheap thrills. It’s a sweet, wonderfully grounded snapshot of life on the cusp.
Rotten Tomatoes says: 92% – “The Spectacular Now is an adroit, sensitive film that avoids typical coming-of-age story trappings.”
The New York Times says: “Much of this (the film’s) patiently achieved success flows from Miles Teller’s winning, seemingly effortless performance as Sutter, in all his laziness and charm, open-mindedness and fatalism, always with a glimpse of the unease beneath.”
The Guardian says: “Ponsoldt elicits remarkably strong performances from his two young leads, who display a depth of feeling that’s breathtaking in its simplicity and honest. Young adulthood is rarely portrayed with such conviction, in a manner that connects with both its core teen audience and a wider adult demographic.”
Entertainment Weekly says: “The Spectacular Now doesn’t shrink from being an all-out teen movie (it has hookups and a senior prom). Yet it’s one of the rare truly soulful and authentic teen movies. It’s about the experience of being caught on the cusp and not knowing which way you’ll land.”
BuzzFeed editor @chrisgeidner: “Yeah, The Spectacular Now was really excellent. Similar to The Way, Way Back, but without the “we’re making a cool movie” self-awareness.”
Actor @rainnwilson: “Just saw The Spectacular Now. It is exquisite & beautiful & you should see it this weekend.”
Kids? Some heavier themes are explored in a relatively palatable manner, but under 13’s will most likely miss the intricacies and feel confronted by a couple of traumatic moments.
Watch it: With anyone. The subject matter is teenaged, but the appeal is universal.