THE SPECTACULAR NOW
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Starring Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley and Kyle Chandler
Sutter Keely is a popular high school senior. He loves to party, has a job, a car, a drink in his hand and a pretty girlfriend who thinks he's hysterical. Aimee Finecky is a sweet girl who loves sci-fi and doesn't think any guy would like her. Although she has ideas and aspirations for the future, he appears to be content living for each day, in the spectacular now.
As a project The Spectacular Now had come to be without much fanfare and hard sell. Its limited release and lack of marketing in the UK particularly meant no preconceptions or expectations as to the films quality; taking a film at face value, independent of hype, is rare. It was however certifiably fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, doing well on metacritic and at a strong 7.2 on IMDb. And rightly so, because The Spectacular Now is wonderful.
It is a coming-of-age romantic comedy but it is far more subtle and sincere than expected. Films of this ilk are perennial and often if you've seen one, you've seen 'em all. Yet The Spectacular Now does accurately embody the attitude of young adults and shows how much a strongly held attitude towards life can change as a result of who you meet. It's soulful, authentic and captures that age where you are on the cusp of shaping yourself and it could go any which way. The dialogue and set up is so unembellished and normal that it becomes something very special. Especially by comparison to the overtly sexed up, stilted and formulaic foolishness such as The First Time (and to a certain extent Project X, which however is good, but for entirely different reasons.)
Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are a delight to watch: charming, realistic and natural. There was some lovely long takes with exchanges between the two that are so well scripted and executed. The late and great Roger Ebert said that 'being young is a solemn business when you really care about someone' and I couldn't put it any better. Both Sutter and Aimee are wonderful characters because they are funny and likeable, multifaceted but also flawed. Under all of Sutter's bravado is someone who isn't quite sure what he wants and perhaps isn't that confident after all. The Spectacular Now is gripping and engrossing but in a non flashy way. It's not showy and gaudy, it's restrained and venerable.