Review 82: The Spectacular Now (2013)
I’d say my taste in films is pretty much all over the place. I’m a fan of other teen dramas like “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” and “Paper Towns,” and Miles Teller won me over in “Whiplash,” so I suggested to my wife that we watch The Spectacular Now. However, I went in with some skepticism because of Shailene Woodley. I’ve not seen any of her films, but I suffered through the pregnant teenager nonsense on ABC Family with my wife many years ago. Surprisingly, I really enjoyed this movie and feel like it’s deserving of the Must See title.
Sutter (Teller) is a senior in high school who is afraid of moving on with his life because he is perfectly content to continue living it up in the “now.” After his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) breaks up with him, he meets a new girl named Aimee (Woodley) who is offers a different perspective on his philosophy.
Sutter is excessively charming in this film, and while he has moments where you will likely dislike the character there is still the redeemable quality about him. Everyone around him seems to think more of him than he thinks of himself. Teller’s portrayal of Sutter really rings home and managed to wipe some of the memory of last years flop, Fantastic Four, out of my mind.
Woodley was surprisingly lovable. I was expecting to nitpick her performance, but she nailed it. I expected her character to be the easily angered at the popular guy she was now getting attention from. I expected her to basically be Julia Stiles in “10 things I hate about you,” or the shrew archetypal character. Fortunately, she plays the innocent yet un-expecting girl next door in a way that felt refreshing to the high school drama love story film.
The other actors in the film do a great job supporting Sutter with Mary Elizabeth Winstead playing his sister Holly, Jennifer Jason Leigh playing his mother Sara, Brie Larson being marvelous as his ex, and other actors including Bob Odenkirk, Kyle Chandler, Masam Holden, and Dayo Okeniyi. This film strongly rests on Teller’s shoulders, but the scenes with each of the above characters have major impacts on the way Sutter views his world and himself.
James Ponsoldt did a terrific job directing this film. Sculpting the performances of these excellent young actors seemed to have paid off, unless my first impression of Woodley was grossly mistaken. He also directed “End of the Tour,” that I recently watched and thoroughly enjoyed.
I do take an issue with the amount of alcohol the high school students were consuming. I’m admittedly naive to the claim that high schoolers party like college students as I like to think the kids I teach are smarter than that. While I understand he isn’t concerned for his well being, the excessive drinking and then driving seems to send the wrong idea.
This movie does take it to a Van Wilder level in many ways. The beats of the film are relatively similar to that film in that the main character is purposely not living up to his full potential because he is afraid of what lies ahead, but that changes when he meets a girl with a different perspective. In that same note, the movie does follow similar story archetypes of other films in this genre, but Woodley’s character helps break the mold a bit.
I was definitely attached to the characters in this film. It manages to leave you with just enough that you can walk away content with the story. Unfortunately, my wife didn’t get to finish the film with me, but I did enjoy it. It’s currently streaming free with Prime on Amazon Instant.