Review: The Spectacular Now (2013, James Ponsoldt)

SpectacularNowRATING: 9/10

Director: James Pondsoldt
Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Masam Holden, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Dayo Okeniyi, Kyle Chandler, Andre Royo
Screenplay: Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber (Based on the novel by Tim Tharp)

When the film was being promoted as “From the Writers of (500) Days of Summer”, I was a little bit worried. I’m one of the few who saw the film and loved it, then after awhile it just didn’t stick. I thought “Summer” was pretentious and trying to be a little bit more indie then it should be. I haven’t heard of Tim Tharp’s book either, so I came into the film hearing only good things about it through word of mouth and reviews, and man am I glad that I saw it. “The Spectacular Now”, probably takes my favourite teenager-based-drama spot in my Top 10 this year (maybe), last year it was “Perks Being a Wallflower”, because of two reasons Miles Teller and the wonderful writing of Neustadter and Weber.

The film is leaded by Miles Teller, who plays Sutter, a high school senior, who has everything – popularity, a good reputation, hot ex-girlfriends – and has nothing: love, a stable family life and surefire future. But is is Sutter’s longing for a father figure the thing that is truly pulling him back? Nope, it’s the fact that he is a functioning alcoholic with his walls so highly guarded, that he refuses to let anyone really in. After one drunken night, Stutter wakes up on an unknown lawn, where he meets Aimee (Woodley), a shy, reserved, comic book geek, who changes his life forever – but not in ways that you think.

The setup of the movie may seem like your typical high school drama, but the truth is, “The Spectacular Now” has so much more layers to it. The love story is different. Shailene’s character Aimee is a second tier storyline, because the main focus of the plot is really Miler Teller’s Sutter. The introduction of his alcohol driven lifestyle (which is more serious that what some high school movies portray) gives him a true transformation plot, and this gives Miles Teller free hand to really show his acting chops.

Miles Teller is an up and coming actor, and the tale of Sutter may be his Charlie to Logan Lerman’s “Perks”. However, in comparison to Lerman, Teller’s is a loud performance, confident and showy – but still fully realized, which is what I liked about it. It tore me a part to see Sutter cry in a breakdown, but it was also a pleasure to see good acting from such a young actor in a none-pretencious film. The chemistry with Woodley was on point, but I’ve been impressed with her elsewhere. Like “The Descendants” (2009), but she did what she had to and delivered a strong performance as well.

To tell you the truth, my faith has been restored for “the writers of (500) Days of Summer”. It isn’t that I hated their first film, I just felt like it will not grow well with time. Plus the disaster that Zoe Deschanel was, but let’s not talk about that. In “The Spectacular Now” everything seems to fit. The subplots, Miles Teller, Woodley, and the large ensemble of supporting players, under the very capable direction of James Ponsoldt) delivers a movie for the ages – which should definitely have more traction and popularity if the world was a better place.


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