Usually when falling in love, the inexperienced (and sometimes the experienced) are the most vulnerable with having clear communication and appropriate boundaries with each other. The mess of our lives affects one another. And if not dealt with, burdens the ones we love. The Spectacular Now is no exception to these concepts and re-affirms the value of young love to a generation, which needs to hear it.
Synopsis: With sly humor and an intensity of feeling, THE SPECTACULAR NOW (directed by James Ponsoldt) creates a vivid, three-dimensional portrait of youth confronting the funny, thrilling and perilous business of modern love and adulthood. This is the tale of Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a high school senior and effortless charmer, and of how he unexpectedly falls in love with “the good girl” Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley). What starts as an unlikely romance becomes a sharp-eyed, straight-up snapshot of the heady confusion and haunting passion of youth – one that doesn’t look for tidy truths. The film was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber (500) DAYS OF SUMMER and also features wonderful supporting turns from Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. (c) a24 Films
Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) and Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley) meet each other in an unlikely circumstance. She finds him hung over in a lawn while on her early morning paper route. They connect when Sutter helps Aimee throw the newspapers. Sutter is overcoming breaking up with his girlfriend (played by indie It-Girl Brie Larson). Sutter is a typical high school party animal with an unhealthy need for consuming alcohol. At a party when Aimee tells Sutter she doesn’t drink, he responds, “Just hold it. It gives off the illusion you’re having fun.” They slowly fall in love as each other’s weakness slowly hinder one another. Kyle Chandler plays a vital role in this as Sutter’s alcoholic estranged father.
Resembling an iconic John Hughes 80’s romance for iPhone owning high schoolers, The Spectacular Now captures the essence of young love. More raw and genuine than 500 Days of Summer which is cute and superficial by comparison (in which screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber both wrote), this digs deep with dark issues of connection, “living in the now,” significance, and battling alcoholism. Director James Ponsoldt (Smashed) knows hot to capture relational strife in the mindst of drunkenness. He also knows how to orchestrate a tender and mature sex scene between high schoolers.
I typically complain that quality features aren’t made anymore for older adults. At least this summer, Sony Pictures Classics released Before Midnight and Blue Jasmine for those mindful adults. However, it is a rarity to find a slightly dark and very serious teenage movie that will play well for them. The industry doesn’t make everlasting movies like The Spectacular Now anymore especially for younger people. That’s what made it incredible! I had the pleasure to attend this screening with the members of Colorado Public Radio, which benefits their organization. It was impressive to see the very positive response from a crowd afterwards that was middle aged to senior status. I made a joke in a tweet that I was one of the younger members of the audience in attendance.
The maturity of the filmmakers speaks volumes with what was accomplished with The Spectacular Now. When a filmmaker makes it big, they sell out and make shallow mainstream features. It would’ve easy to do this about young love. In a lame movie, Shia LeBouf would’ve played Sutter and sassy gay friend would advise Aimee not to date him. Top 40 music would’ve overwhelmed key moments that were as sappy as A Walk to Remember. Thankfully, this isn’t THAT movie! And just like last year’s under-appreciated and beautifully understated Perks of Being a Wallflower, you don’t have to be young to find Spectacular Now relatable…just young once.