Director James Ponsoldt’s big screen adaptation of the book, “The Spectacular Now,” opens with popular high school senior Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) staring at the personal statement prompt for his college application. He rants about his break-up during the summer in the entry form, which results with Sutter humiliating his ex-girlfriend at a party and later passed out drunk on a stranger’s lawn. Morning comes and Sutter is awakened by not-so-popular Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley), and the two become closer.
There is romance between Sutter and Aimee but “The Spectacular Now” is not quite a date flick. It takes a while for Sutter to passionately show interest in Aimee, even though the two hang out constantly. Sutter instead claims he’s offering Aimee the “boyfriend experience” she’s never had. Eventually giving himself a huge promise to fulfill and showing Aimee the ropes. However, he disappears when he’s needed the most.
“The Spectacular Now” explores Sutter’s teenage flaws of ignoring his personal responsibilities rather than attempting them. He’s a nice guy with good intentions, but his acts put him in a deep hole. Teller’s performance as Sutter makes him an appealing character, especially when acting out Sutter’s treacherous “living in the now” attitude.
Aimee’s character plays the opposite, a person far removed from the present for what could lie ahead because of her naïveté. As she gives in to Sutter’s affectionate charm, Aimee trusts Sutter wholeheartedly, a worrisome situation as she falls head over heels for him.
The combination may seem dangerous, but Sutter and Aimee share a dynamic chemistry bound to keep audiences drawn in. The two teach each other what they lack in development. Aimee adopts bravery while Sutter starts to figure out commitment. They play great compliments by bringing each other back to reality.
Despite many troubles threatening to steer the tale off course, the story flows smoothly without a need to heighten the drama. It’s only when the writers forcefully complicate the events, Sutter meeting his long gone neglectful father, that the movie begins to slip. “The Spectacular Now” is driven by what happens when problems are set aside—Sutter’s flaws provide enough issues as is.
Perhaps for some, “The Spectacular Now” will appear too fixed for the teenage mind. The film stays in its right place as a story about maturity with other secondary issues. The aspects of love are handled with a mature, realistic approach from the screenwriters, Scott Neustadlter and Michael Weber, without using too much romantic-comedy sweetness.
“The Spectacular Now” is a solid coming-of-age comedy drama about being too comfortable in the “now” and what happens when reality forces one to move along. What’s more fitting to explore such a premise than the transition from high school to early adulthood? Although, “The Spectacular Now” reaches an ambiguous conclusion, Sutter’s strong optimism suggests there’s still hope for him. A lesson well learned.
Movie: “The Spectacular Now”
Director: James Ponsoldt
Release Date: Aug. 16
Grade: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Information about “The Spectacular Now” can be found at spectacularnowmovie.com.