Sunday, August 18, 2013

Movie Review: "The Spectacular Now"

Sutter Keely (Rabbit Hole's Miles Teller) seems to have it all. Confident, good looking, the life of every party, he is always quick with a joke or ready to lend a helping hand. He and his girlfriend Cassidy (The United States of Tara's Brie Larson) have a wild, fun relationship—until it all gets a little too much for her and she breaks up with him.

The thing is, Sutter doesn't believe in making future plans. He doesn't like to think of the future at all—not college, not marriage, not a career path. It's frustrating to his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh), his teachers, his boss, even his friends. He lives in the now, and just focuses on being happy, which is easy for him, considering that he nearly always has a flask of whiskey and/or a beer at hand.

One day he wakes up on the lawn of Aimee Finecky (The Descendants' Shailene Woodley), a quiet, intelligent, and driven classmate he had never met, because she doesn't go to parties or move in the same circles he does. (She actually studies and does well.) Drawn to someone so different from him, Sutter and Aimee strike up a friendship that turns to romance—despite Sutter giving Aimee every reason not to fall for him.

Is Sutter falling for Aimee or is this simply a rebound relationship with someone vastly different from Cassidy? Can someone so focused on living day to day every have a successful relationship? Will Sutter be able to grow up and face the future, especially one that includes Aimee? Or will he fall into his regular behavioral patterns despite having every reason not to?

The Spectacular Now is a pretty terrific, romantic little movie that makes you think and makes you feel. It's funny, heartfelt, and (fairly) authentic, and although Sutter gives you every reason to dislike him, you can see what motivates him to act the way he does, as much as you can see the motivations behind Aimee's actions and behaviors as well. You want to root for the couple to succeed even if you know they may not be right for each other.

What works so well in this movie are the performances. Miles Teller has such an unabashed charm and confidence that you can absolutely see why his character appeals to so many. Yet his performance is layered—the braggadocio is undercut with a heartbreaking vulnerability, and you can see his character literally caught between inertia and the slightest pull of ambition. Shailene Woodley follows up her should-have-been-Oscar-nominated performance in The Descendants with another tough and emotionally complex role. Given the high profile movies she has on the horizon (Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars), she's on her way to being a major star.

I've said numerous times (on this blog and otherwise) that I'm a total sucker for romantic and emotional movies, so it's little wonder The Spectacular Now appealed to me. But more than manipulating my emotions, this movie worked for me on so many levels. It's far more complex than a typical high school relationship movie, and praise goes to director James Ponsoldt and screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (who adapted Tim Tharp's novel) for not taking the easy or the usual way out, at any point in this movie.

If you like this type of movie, go see it.

1 comment:

  1. I loved it. I really enjoy independent movies ALOT.