Stars: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler
Director: James Ponsoldt
Genre: Drama/ Romance-comedy
The Spectacular Now is a small gem of a movie with a splashy title that features a soon to be prominent film star (my prediction) in the young Shailene Woodley. (You might remember her as the George Clooney character's daughter in The Descendants.) More on the talented Ms. Woodley in a moment.
Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is a popular high school kid who drinks too much. He and his girlfriend, Cassidy, (Brie Larson) are the life of the party because they can dance and know how to booze it up (the two main attributes a high-schooler must possess to be popular.) But as we enter their lives, they are breaking up due to a misunderstanding. Or maybe they just saw each other one time in the light of day when they were both sober. So Sutter begins to imbibe even more to deal with his loss.
Not surprisingly, Sutter is a slacker in school. He has a teacher who cares, who knows that the kid would do well if he would just apply himself. Despite it all, he's a sympathetic character (a mite reminiscent of Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate) with whom many of us can identify because he doesn't want to grow up.
Enter Aimee Finecky, (Shailene Woodley) a rather plain-looking and plain-spoken--read nerdy--type who becomes Sutter's rebound girl. That's not to say that she isn't beautiful. It's the kind of beauty that radiates from within and shines from without on her exquisitely expressive face. A face that hits all the right marks at the appropriate times. So unspoiled, so real, so sincere, and yes, a bit naive--that you can't fathom why he doesn't fall head-over-heels for her right away. And that is high tribute to the talents and fresh-faced appeal of Ms. Woodley.
But Sutter is troubled, and the key to his alcohol abuse may lie with his estranged father, whom he hasn't seen since early childhood. He is compelled to find the man--and in the process, he hopes--to find himself as well.
The appeal of The Spectacular Now is that we have a young couple--on the verge of high school graduation and facing major changes in their lives (undertones of American Graffiti) that we can root for, despite the odds that are stacked against them.
Grade: B +
This is our tenth joint review, Tim and I. And finally, at long last, we have a spectacular conflict of opinions. I felt there were more holes in this script than Sutter Keeley's propensity for telling untruths. The most blantant being how our leading brat's rampant alcoholism is never really addressed. All it takes in this coming-of-age saga is following your sweetheart to the college of her choice. (Who needs Alcoholics Anonymous?)
As for "the teacher who cares," he is prominently featured at the beginning and then conveniently disappears by the end. And then there's Sutter's mom. The first time we meet her, she's pissed at her son for forgetting to hang up her uniform so it won't be wrinkled when she has to go to work. The second time, she's pissed at her son for showing up at her place of business and demanding to know who and where his father is. Basically, theirs is not an ideal mother/son relationship. Then—with zero preparation—she becomes a validating parent. Convenient but totally unrealistic.
I could go on...and on...and on. But as is my custom with these mini movie comments, I like to end on a positive note. There is a beautifully directed and very real sex scene between the two leads that touched my heart and made me recall "my first time." I defy anyone to watch this particular scene without being moved. Nonetheless, I'd call this film a bomb-in-the-making.
Grade: C –