The Spectacular Now Reviews
The first act of this film is so drenched in cliche that it's difficult to take the rest of the film seriously. But it should be taken seriously because parts of it are really good, carried by a passable performance by Miles Teller and a strong supporting turn by Shailene Woodley.
The film's carpe diem message is muddled though, and the film doesn't take any real risks. For example, the scene by the car after Sutter meets his estranged father should have greater consequences than it does (that's an abstrusely constructed sentence to avoid spoilers).
Overall, now, it's not all that spectacular.
Can't say it was really worth it. It's fine. It's not so much a bad movie as a dull one.
The movie itself was really good. The story probably isn't that new, but the performances is what really draws you into the story. It's about the transition from being an carefree youth to becoming an responsible adult. Which is hard for Sutter Keely to come to terms with. He is very much stuck in the now and would like to stay there. But soon things take a turn for him and he starts to question who is and what he wants and who he does and does not want to be.
The movie touches on alcoholism and how it effects these young lives and the people around them.
The film also gives you a really good look at a girls first time, love, relationship, and heartbreak.
The story is strong and the performances really make this a film to see. I am definitely glad I a came across this one.
Very enjoyable film for me! From the writers of 500 Days of Summer, which we all know wasn't just your average love story, comes a seemingly average love story in The Spectacular Now. But it isn't very average, and that's the beauty of it. The story observed here carries a genuine believability to it that allows a gushy teenage girl who searches for the perfect love story to be able to relate to the film in a way that isn't as unrealistic as some other popular romance films. The acting across the board is great. I have found that movies like this that have relatively undiscovered actors and actresses as the lead roles allow for a good connection from the audience to the story, especially when the story is a good one like it is here. The Spectacular Now is much more than another indie darling. It has breathed life into the "teen movie" genre by treating its characters with maturity and honesty. This is the coming of age movie of our time. Go see it!
Sutter Keely lives in the now. It's a good place for him. A high school senior, charming and self-possessed, he's the life of the party, loves his job at a men's clothing store, and has no plans for the future. A budding alcoholic, he's never far from his supersized, whiskey-fortified thirst-master cup. But after being dumped by his girlfriend, Sutter gets drunk and wakes up on a lawn with Aimee Finecky hovering over him. She's different: the "nice girl" who reads science fiction and doesn't have a boyfriend. While Amy has dreams of a future, Sutter lives in the impressive delusion of a spectacular now, yet somehow, they're drawn together.
I figured this would be a fairly typical "love of a good woman" story with the modest girl-next-door reforming the perpetually buzzed, ne'er-do-well charmer, and I enjoyed Aimee's game-for-anything light and Sutter's dawning admiration. It takes much strength to really accept someone for who they are, as Aimee does for Sutter.
The one moment when I found her unwavering patience unrealistic and unforgivable is after Sutter rages for her to get out of his car and away from his destructive personality; in her own drunken, tearful confusion, she steps back and gets side-swiped by another car. Fade to black.
We fade back in without much ado, only to find that Aimee isn't dead or horribly injured. In fact, she's remarkably cheery and happy to see Sutter. At this point, I was screaming Stockholm Syndrome! There's only so far patience can go before the movie starts lacking conflict. SOMEBODY ought to address the alcohol problem and the negative influence Sutter has had on her.
I'm also not fond of Neustadter and Weber's proclivity for the recycled gift-wrapped happy ending. "(500) Days of Summer" could have ended bittersweetly like "Annie Hall," but Tom meets Autumn and another seasonal cycle continues - for better or worse, the film doesn't even really care. Sutter finishes his lame college application essay about the importance of "the now" (even though Sutter working at a dad 'n son-esque men's wear store adds an oddly dated quality to this movie), goes to find Aimee at school, and she presumably takes him back even though he hasn't really had enough time to truly reform. The story's just terribly innocuous.
Sutter (Miles Teller) is the most popular guy in school, or so he'd tell you. He's the life of every party, the kind of guy who everyone enjoyed, and the guy who could charm the pants off any girl. He's recently broken up with his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson), though still harboring serious feelings for her. Of course the best way to get over the old girl is with a new one, and Sutter sets his sights on Aimee (Shailene Woodley). She's a smart, somewhat quiet gal that immediately takes a shine to the spotlight that is Sutter's affections and attention. He's not entirely over his old girlfriend, still angling to get back together, but also Sutter's whole perspective could be summed up as an extreme case of carpe diem. The kid is partying like there's no tomorrow because he's convinced he has no real future, so he's going to live it up while he can.
You've easily seen this movie before but it's rare to see it given so much depth, maturity, and care. At heart, this is the story of Sutter learning he's a screw-up and getting his life back in order, learning some self-control and responsibility, and winning over the good girl. But The Spectacular Now is so much more than that, and it's especially sadder than you may have expected with its wise-talking, charming protagonist. This is the story of a teen coming to grips with parental abandonment, gaining insight into his own delusional detours to avoid pain, and the horrible realization that he is, in his present reckless condition, a bad influence dragging down the future of the girl he genuinely care for. That's a lot of heavy emotional drama and none of it revolves around the clichéd staples of teen movies, like those checkpoints such as prom and the Big Test. This is the story about one damaged man coming to terms with the state of his damage and gaining the courage to change his direction. He's an alcoholic but the movie doesn't ever put the narrative on hold for soapbox preaching. If anything, Sutter's alcoholism is handled so subtlety, with most character silently acknowledging but unsure or indifferent to act, that it may strike a few chords with audience members. Then there's the fact that none of this is heavy-handed; the filmmakers have done a fabulous job of giving each character credibility. They behave like real human beings. Even the easily slotted antagonists, namely Cassidy and his deadbeat dad, are given shades of recognizable humanity and depth. Even though Cassidy waffles in her feelings for her ex, I cannot dislike her because her character portrayal is so honest. She's struggling with her feelings for a screw-up with redeeming qualities. That's fairly relatable, even if she's not our winsome romantic lead. The filmmakers drag a typical teen movie story into our real world setting, adding depth and telling observance. You will recognize many of these characters.
There are few superlatives to describe the cuteness of the blossoming relationship between Sutter and Aimee. It's so smooth and relaxed yet completely believable, and the two actors have such a warm and natural chemistry with one another, enough that I seriously contemplated if they dated outside the film (rumored but nothing conclusive). You feel their budding affections, the sweet swoon of young love, and the hiccups along the way. Woodley (The Descendants) does an outstanding job with her mannerisms and affectations; her awkwardness around her feelings is adorable, but not in that prefabricated cutesy way often ascribed to the oft-mentioned Manic Pixie Dream Girl roles. She's a fairly normal teenager on the fringes of high school, keeping her nose down and looking ahead. In movie terms, you couldn't readily classify a gal like Aimee, and that's because she's a real character fully fleshed out by the screenwriters and the actress. Woodley's performance is near invisible of acting tropes and constraints. She just dissolves into the character as all exceptional actors do.
But this is Sutter's movie and, in accordance, Teller's (Rabbit Hole) film. The young man puts on an acting camp in this film, shedding the various layers of armor from his sad clown of a character. As I said before, we've seen this character before, but Teller and the screenplay are able to give Sutter such extraordinary depth. The carefree life-of-the-party character is turned into an introspective character study, essentially examining the darker side of Ferris Bueller. He's using alcohol and his blithe attitude to blunt the pain that he fears he'll end up like his old man, that his life has already peaked and he's not even out of high school. Teller is such a successful charmer that he already wins you over to his side despite some boorish behavior because we see that the guy has a good heart. In the film's opening, he's propping up his friend to finally get the guy a girl, and the ensuing mess ends his own relationship. The last act involves Sutter coming to grips with the impact of his actions, notable negative on Aimee. Teller is so effective at giving you glimpses of the sadness eating him whole. His concluding scenes when he finally breaks down feel like a hard-fought victory for the character as he confronts his doomed fate. At every turn, Teller impresses, and compounded with Woodley, they form an unbeatable team of sterling young acting talent.
Special mention to Kyle Chandler (Super 8) for his pivotal walk-on roll as Sutter's bad dad. He's so pathetic and so desperate and so wonderfully realized by Chandler. He doesn't get a Big Scene, he doesn't get a Big Speech, he doesn't even do anything out of the ordinary for a shifty, unreliable, selfish drunk, but those few minutes he's onscreen, it all becomes so deeply sad and clear where Sutter's life is headed without intervention.
The only depiction that I had trouble believing was Sutter's almost consistent drinking and driving. Throughout the film, he has his trusty Styrofoam Big Gulp cup with him, spiked with booze. The man hasn't graduated high school yet and is already a high-functioning alcoholic. Because of this I can believe that people would not be alarmed seeing him drive after imbibing a few drinks. However, the man is constantly drinking while behind the wheel of an auto and several times he appears completely trashed. I find it alarming as well as a bit far-fetched that not one character, not even Aimee, would raise objection to Sutter's continued dangerous behavior. We also witness several scenes of Sutter drinking in bars. It's conceivable he has a fake ID at his disposal, and its even more conceivable that he could talk his way into any establishment, but it's more food for thought. Then again maybe this is just one of those towns where nobody cares about innocent lives being snuffed out by drunk drivers.
The Spectacular Now is an earnest film that doesn't overdo it, providing challenging life lessons to fully formed, complex, believable characters. It doesn't sugarcoat the heartache and harsh reality out there for vulnerable teens. It's a charming romance tied up with an insightful character study of one young man hiding his sadness and anxiety of life's disappointments with humor and booze. Thanks to the tremendous acting of its onscreen pair, you root for Sutter to turn his life around because you see value in him as a person, even if he doubts it himself. You're on his side from the start, and you know how nicely he matches up with Aimee. You want this movie to pull off the spectacular, and for long stretches it feels just as if that will happen. The ending aims for ambiguity but is far more hopeful than its source material. I was charmed thoroughly by this film and its lead characters but even more I was thoroughly engaged in their dilemmas, moved by their struggles, and encouraged by their perseverance and growth. The Spectacular Now (extra points for never even having a character spout the title) is a funny, warmhearted, measurable restrained, knowing film that could open eyes. It may not be spectacular to some, but it's surely a great film.
Nate's Grade: A-