Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is the life of the party wherever he goes. An 18-year-old, barely functioning alcoholic, Sutter is quick with jokes and can make everyone around him instantly feel at ease. For a while, life as the King is good; Sutter is well-known, well-liked, and dating Cassidy (Brie Larson), a girl that is seemingly perfect for him. Yet, with time comes change and after a silly misunderstanding Cassidy dumps Sutter, leaving him slightly heartbroken, but prepared to bounce back. A night of partying results in Sutter passed out on a stranger’s lawn and him making the acquaintance of Aimee (Shailene Woodley). The bookish, quiet Aimee and outgoing Sutter find themselves immediately drawn to one another, and soon a symbiotic relationship between the two form. Sutter coaxes Aimee out of her shell and into his world of living in the moment, while Aimee humanizes Sutter through books and the art of love. Together the two learn what it means to be in love while also embarking on a tumultuous journey to come of age.
The Spectacular Now is an impressive story that only builds with each passing scene. While it’s filled with humorous moments, as well as touching ones, The Spectacular Now shocks viewers with some unforeseen events at the behest of characters’ shortcomings. Nevertheless, one of the major strengths of The Spectacular Now is its screenplay by writing partners Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter of (500) Days of Summer fame. Together the duo create phenomenal character development that explores the notion of self-sabotage vs. ultimate self-realization in Sutter.
A well-placed and crucial side plot of the film places Sutter at odds with his overworked mother Sara (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in their fatherless home. Sutter, like most fatherless sons, blames his mother for his parent’s split, causing an internal desire to hear his dad’s side of the story. After many attempts, Sutter is reunited with his father only to find himself later pondering what his future holds for him as the offspring of the man he comes face to face with. The film’s tone takes a grave turn at the point of contact with Sutter’s father, resulting in an emotional, genuine change of heart from those involved.
The script isn’t the only strong point in The Spectacular Now. Another asset of the film is the magnetic chemistry between Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller, and furthermore their extraordinary talents. Woodley is charming as the doe-eyed Aimee, whose nervous giggles are as infectious as the gleam of wonder in her eyes. On the other hand, as a character Sutter has all the makings of being the archetype asshole, but Teller’s confident amiability makes viewers empathetic of Sutter’s most stupid mistakes. It’s easy to foolishly put trust in the character, despite knowing his pitfalls and still wanting to smack him for making his stupid decisions.
“Let’s get some fuggin’ french toast!”
Director James Ponsoldt effectively showcases a dark yet uplifting story of two teenagers in love through impressive camerawork and strong performances from his actors. The Spectacular Now has the outline of your standard high school romantic drama, but its difference comes from its character development and chemistry. Surprisingly, there are no physical enemies or antagonists within this film, which is the most impressive aspect. Instead, the simple act of growing up and learning from one’s mistakes are what’s focused on. The Spectacular Now is far from the greatest indie flick you’ll see in your lifetime, but it’s an honest and entertaining story of a boy’s struggle into adulthood.
Which is way better than this guy’s struggles.
Take a Drink: when Sutter drunkenly drives.
Take a Drink: when Sutter drinks from his flask and NOT his gas station cup.
Take a Drink: when Aimee’s laugh makes your heart melt.
Take a Drink: when Aimee says “awesome.”