The Spectacular Now is the movie about high school I wish I had growing up. It’s easily identifiable and relatable to anyone who felt growing pains or knew someone having a wobbly time through secondary education.
James Ponsoldt’s coming-of-age dramedy features two exceptional performances from up-and-comers Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, who play unexpected friends who eventually become smitten with each other. Though, Teller’s motormouth Sutter Keely won’t directly admit it since he has a difficult time thinking about the future with anyone.
Keely deals with a personal alcohol addiction, although he dodges any truth and believes the binging is all part of “living in the now”. His snappy personality is appreciated amongst his school and he looks as if he could clean up if he participated in any sports. However, he’s just as easily left out in the cold when he’s dumped by his girlfriend, which causes him to have trouble fitting into any sort of determined clique or self aspiration.
Woodley’s Aimee silently enters his life after she catches his eye and is feeling very vulnerable. She’s a sweet girl and Ponsoldt has gone out of his way to make her homely – including stripping the actress away from make-up or hairstyling and having most of her performance layered by a coy shellac. The director could’ve eased up a little on making Aimee a meek outsider, but he nor Woodley never overplay the character’s shy innocence.
Teller and Woodley make a good couple and have no problem creating a relationship that takes off at first glance. They follow a certain template that now feels necessary in teen movies, but The Spectacular Now doesn’t belong in that vast wash of young adult escapism.
For one, it’s R-rated and never exploits its free range. It’s not interested in a gratuitous outlook during the final years of high school, but it also doesn’t peter away from what makes young adulthood a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
It’s also notable to add that even though we all knew – or still know – people like Sutter and Aimee, the film doesn’t depend on its relatable factors. Ponsoldt is given plenty of opportunities to cop out, but his screenplay (written by Scott Neustadter and Michaek H, Weber adapting from Tim Tharp’s novel) along with his strong ingenuity and faithfulness as a filmmaker pull through and reject any instance to settle for mediocrity.
As many enjoyed The Perks of Being a Wallflower, that same crowd will eat up The Spectacular Now with a big smile on their face. It’s in the same coming-of-age vein, but what makes The Spectacular Now especially unique is how Ponsoldt has used his leads to help each other out through thick and thin of their personal issues along with family matters. They both develop together and their companionship is just as important as any individual character. Ponsoldt, however, still conveys immature unknowingness. For instance, Aimee may be helping Sutter reconnect with his absent father, but she’s unbeknownst to how serious Sutter’s drinking problem really is.
I still prefer The Perks of Being a Wallflower over Ponsoldt’s candid endeavor because it offered more with its presentation, but The Spectacular Now will please those who are looking for a film that tells the truth without being soft. That, along with how well polished it is, earns the flick a classic status.
The Spectacular Now is that indie hidden gem that audiences seek throughout a year of big budget blockbusters. It’s an apt effort that will undoubtably propel Teller and Woodley forward in their budding careers along with the movie’s marvellous filmmaker.