From the director of ‘Smashed‘ and the writers of ‘(500) Days of Summer‘ comes a charming little gem called ‘The Spectacular Now’. In a way, this is a high-school movie, but one that’s wholly original and incredibly acted by its young adult cast. The film tackles a few big subjects like alcoholism, abandonment and depression, but the appealing cast keeps us wanting more.
The movie centers on high school senior Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), who can talk to anybody, can make lifelong friends in ten seconds flat, and is usually the life of the party. Even the star athlete and class president wishes that he had as much charm as Keely. However, Keely rarely makes decent grades, always has a flask full of alcohol, and has never once planned for his future. He’s only concerned with the “now.” After his longtime girlfriend leaves him, Sutter goes on a drinking binge and wakes up the next morning sprawled on someone’s lawn.
That someone is classmate Aimee (Shailene Woodley), the quiet girl in school who makes good grades and loves science fiction and anime. The two hit it off fast. At first, Sutter thinks that Aimee is an easy rebound, but then he really falls for her. The two go on several dates, and Sutter invites Amiee over to dinner with his older sister (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). We find out that Aimee’s dad passed away a few years ago, and that Sutter’s dad left the family when he was little. Sutter and his sister have had no real contact with their father, since their mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) has forbidden it.
Aimee convinces Sutter to locate his dad (Kyle Chandler), and the two venture out to see him. His father is a good-looking guy, but we soon realize why his mother has kept her kids away from him. After an afternoon of drinking in a dive bar, his dad ditches Sutter and leaves him with the bar tab, only to go a few miles down the road and keep drinking with his friends. This scares Sutter deeply, and he soon realizes that he’s following the same path. A few dramatic situations unfold, until the big mother-son talk that could put Sutter on the right track again.
Teller is an amazing actor and gives a stellar performance as a young man who can charm anyone while hiding his depression. Woodley makes us fall in love with her very fast, just like Sutter did. Leigh and Chandler turn in great performances too. ‘The Spectacular Now’ is a wonderful look into a flawed character who we want to see succeed. The film delivers on several deep and emotional levels.
I thought the movie, as a whole, is better than the book. The book always stunk of an old author forcing young hip dialogue for the characters. I kept thinking, “This is how old people think teenagers talk.” So I wasn’t surprised to see Tim Tharp at a Sundance Q&A. Yep, he’s old.
So, in that sense the movie is more true to realistic dialogue and conversation than the book is.
But, the ending in the movie is far too tailored for mass appeal. It’s the safe way to end a movie. The cliched way. The book doesn’t end like that and in that way the book’s ending is better than the movie.
It’s still a decent film though. One of the better ones I saw at Sundance.