The Spectacular Now Reviews
Sutter Keely is a popular high school senior. He's charmingly cocky, self-assured and he gets along great with everyone. He loves his part-time job at a men's clothing store and he has a nice car. He also loves his alcohol and he's never very far away from his next supersized, whiskey-laced soft drink. Life is great for Sutter and he has no plans to change anything. One day, after his girlfriend dumps him, he gets drunk and wakes up on the lawn of his classmate, Aimee Finecky. She's different from all the other girls he knows. She's a bit of a science fiction nerd but she's sweet. She dreams of a bright future for herself and whomever she should marry. Sutter, on the other hand, lives only in the now. He has no dreams. Yet, somehow, they're drawn together.
Like most teenagers, Sutter and Aimee both have parental issues. Both want to stand up to their mothers but neither has the confidence to do so. For Aimee, she wants to go to an out-of-state university but her mother wants her to stay home. For Sutter, he wants to reconnect with his estranged father but his mother wants to keep them apart. When they make a pact with each other to challenge their parents' decisions, they set the wheels in motion that will change their lives forever.
Sutter tracks down his father, and he and Amy go off to visit him. What they find is not what they expect. Like Sutter, his dad lives only for the moment. As he says to Sutter, "live fast, die hard, and leave a beautiful memory". Sutter's eyes are opened for the first time and, although he sees the path he is on, he feels he is not worthy enough to have a life that is any different. Amy, on the other hand, sees Sutter differently. In fact, everyone from his teacher to his sister, boss, best friend, ex-girlfriend (Brie Larson, DON JON) and even his ex's new boyfriend, see Sutter differently. They see that if he can ever love himself as much as they love him, he will be awesome.
If we were not Sutter growing up, we certainly knew kids who were. That's what makes this film so appealingly heartbreaking. He is confident on the outside but is a ball of insecurity on the inside. Aimee, on the other hand, is just the opposite but she is just as authentic. Not surprisingly, THE SPECTACULAR NOW won a special award at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival for its principal actors, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, who both shine in the film. The National Board of Review named THE SPECTACULAR NOW as one of 2013's Top Ten Independent Films and the Phoenix Film Critics' Society called it the Most Overlooked Film of the Year.
The film isn't scheduled to come to Hong Kong (no surprise) but if you can find it either in DVD format or online (legally, of course), get it and watch it with your teenage kids. Please note, though, that there is one scene of sex and nudity.
And it did...a little. For starters, the acting in this movie is phenomenal. The only character whose acting was questionable was Krystal, but she only had a few lines.
The biggest redemption was the ending. This movie did what Paper Towns did, take a frustrating, unsatisfying book ending and make it conclusive and satisfying.
Whilst the movie did a wonderful job at adapting the book, I still did not enjoy the story. To be fair, it is the fault of the book and not the fault of the movie, but it still made the movie unenjoyable.
In the end, while I did not enjoy the story, I do respect the movie's adaption of the book, and the acting of the characters. Very well done.
The writing is so natural that I can't even wrap my head around how it was written. It couldn't have been, because the performances here are so natural, so authentic and so powerful, that the actors must have just carried themselves. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley crackle with deep humanity and mesmerizing chemistry and it's awe inspiring to watch. For such a simple story, watching these two people fall in love before your eyes beats almost any cinematic experience I've seen over the past few years.
Woodley might have been snubbed for an Oscar nomination with this performance. She doesn't even seem like she's acting. And Teller, playing the carefree party guy he typically does (and does well), adds a whole level of depth and complexity. The film is almost subversive in how it plays with our expectations and because of that, I feel like it's the definitive American coming of age story of the decade. A must watch.
The supporting cast, all who have a remarkable chemistry with Teller, and all have small but pivotal roles. Jennifer Jason Leigh, as Sutter's mom, Bob Odenkirk, as Sutter's boss, and Brie Larson as Sutter's ex-girlfriend each have flawless performances. The depth that JJL can show makes her one of my all-time favs. Teller, who parlayed this role into one in Whiplash, which made him a mainstream star, is spectacular playing the often tormented teen.
Shailene Woodley, plays Aimee Finicky, Sutter's late senior year girlfriend. The long single shot scenes between the two are so authentic you'd think you're watching with a hidden camera into someone's real life. This movie is special, the cast is fantastic, the direction is natural, and the writing ties it all together. There's little not to like. It's one of the best coming-of-age films of recent memory.