At my screening of ‘The Spectacular Now,’ I heard numerous people around me commenting on the events of the film. Typically, I would have been annoyed by this. But in this case, the things that were being said were more illuminating about the film itself than the fact that they were being said. I heard genuine responses like, ‘she loves him’ and ‘he’s scared’ and ‘oh no!’ To me, this illustrated how much people who see this film will truly care about its two main characters. Miles Teller plays Sutter and Shailene Woodley plays Aimee, and they are quite an unlikely high school couple. With his ex-girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson), Sutter was the life of the party and almost the king of the student body. But he’s a bit too cocky; at times, too smarmy. Teller has mastered the cadence of Vince Vaughn – he’s a salesman of self-confidence when he really has none at all. He’s got no clue as to who his dad really is (he left when Sutter was very young), he’s not concerned at all with his life beyond high school, and he’s got a serious problem with alcohol (which I will address later). After leaving him because of the last two Sutter-descriptors I just listed, Cassidy starts dating a nice guy who’s obviously a rebound, and Sutter wakes up on Aimee’s lawn on a Saturday morning with a hangover. Sutter has never given Aimee the time of day, and just by sheer virtue of his own engrossing personality, he makes her fall in love with him. Sutter’s really only halfway to true love throughout most of the movie, and the beautiful thing about ‘The Spectacular Now’ is seeing him get past his father and his alcoholism to get to Aimee.
This movie is what most high school hipsters dream about. I think it’ll get serious props from late teenagers because of the seriousness with which it treats Sutter’s problems. It doesn’t wear kid gloves when it addresses his drinking. He thinks he’s an adult, but he’s not yet. And like I said, that’s what’s great about this movie. Watching him blossom.
In lieu of a more beautiful way to sum up my thoughts about ‘The Spectacular Now’ and as a tribute to the late great Roger Ebert, I’d like to leave you with this gorgeous excerpt from his review of the film – one of the last he ever wrote:
What an affecting film this is. It respects its characters and doesn’t use them for its own shabby purposes. How deeply we care about them. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are so there. Being young is a solemn business when you really care about someone. Teller has a touch of John Cusack in his “Say Anything” period. Woodley is beautiful in a real person sort if way, studying him with concern, and then that warm smile. We have gone through senior year with these two. We have known them. We have been them.
-George Napper (with an excerpt from Roger Ebert)