The Spectacular Now is an adroit, sensitive film that avoids typical coming-of-age story trappings. There are scenes, moments, and dialogue in this film that ring so true that it all comes rushing back, a flood of memories and emotions and a little bit of pain. An unusually evasive piece of filmmaking - hard to pin down, but all the more worthwhile for its craftiness. The focus in James Ponsoldt's affecting, intelligent drama is a pair of teenagers, and in them is so much complexity and heart that this casually paced gem feels rich in scope. They're two of the most carefully created figures on screen, and yet their normalness takes us by surprise.Every time the film teeters on the precipice of a generic plot point it satisfyingly withdraws into more subtle and nuanced territory that ultimately coalesces in a final act that is sentimental without being sugary. This low-budget production is all about the performances, with Kyle Chandler turning up late in the piece as Sutter's father, Smashed's Mary Elizabeth Winstead as his slightly snobby sister and a cool supporting cast of appealing young 'uns. What you thought would be a generic high-school romance turns into an edgy character drama with dark, uncompromising undertones. James Ponsoldt's film, and its stars, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, continually take us in unexpected directions, giving the film an unexpected depth. It feels real, its emotions earned.
VERDICT: "High-Quality Stuff" - [Positive Reaction] This is a rating to a movie I view as very entertaining and well made, and definitely worth paying the full price at a theatre to see or own on DVD. It is not perfect, but it is definitely excellent. (Films that are rated 3.5 or 4 stars)