The Spectacular Now – 2013

Director James Ponsoldt
Starring Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler, Bob Odenkirk, Andre Royer, Dayo Okeniyi, Kaitlyn Dever
Screenplay Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber based on the book by Tim Tharp

There is a time after Sutter and Aimee (Teller and Woodley) share a most intimate moment where she lays there and looks into his eyes.  Aimee has crossed a threshold.  She feels powerful, and she wants her boyfriend to feel the same.  If he is sober, Sutter won’t be that way for long.  What he feels is less powerful and more drunk.  He is living for now, or so he says.

Sutter has already lost one girlfriend, Cassidy (Larson), who tells him:

“I’m trying to do things now that aren’t bad for me…You’ll always be my favorite ex-boyfriend.”

Sutter floats around with a flask in his hand.  He’s funny, happy being in high school, and he can’t imagine life after.  He doesn’t bother trying.

In that way that can only happen in movies, Aimee has never had an ex-boyfriend.  She knows he has faults, and she not only accepts them, she starts to share them. They aren’t going to get in the way of her dreams, at least for now.  She foolishly thinks that she can bring him along with him on her way to college and he can do the Jr. College route.  He knows better.  He knows now doesn’t end, spectacular as it can be.

Teller is good, doing a variation on his earlier work in 21 & Over and Footloose.  In those movies, drinking is all in good fun.  Here it is handled with a more realistic touch.  He shows the propensity to understand the subtle differences in comedy of one, romance of the next and the horror of The Spectacular Now.  It makes a difference.

Woodley is excellent.  She takes a courageous road of being one who is innocent, without having her turn the corner into wise.  Drinking is not part of her past, even if her father died an addict.  She is willing to follow his lead even if she is unaware of how it could throw her entirely off her carefully plotted course.  This time, its Sutter that has to make the turn.  Whether he does or not is the question.

Ponsoldt has an innate understanding of the power of subtlety. There are moments with sound but no light that serve as placeholders for events.  This illuminates more than any amount of light ever could on the situation.  The film has a limited range, but the essential points are delivered effectively.

There have been many movies about the evils of inebriation,  The Perks of Being a Wallflower covered more and asked more of its audience.  This is a good film, that manages to walk the line between being too fun and not fun at all.  It’s not spectacular, but it is the serious teen film for now.

(**** out of *****)

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