'Spectacular Now' a special treat
By Bill Goodykoontz
Published: Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
One of the most satisfying things about watching “The Spectacular Now” is thinking, I've seen this movie before, one that touches on seemingly every aspect of the teen coming-of-age genre.
And then realizing you haven't.
James Ponsoldt's film, and its stars, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley, continually take us in unexpected directions, giving the film an unexpected depth. It feels real, its emotions earned. It shies away from the Big Dramatic Moment for the most part, instead doling out little victories and small defeats, which is similar to the way most of us experienced our teen years.
Sutter (Teller) is the smooth-talking kid who has an answer for everything, makes friends easily, seems to be gliding through life. He is reminiscent of John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler in “Say Anything.”
Until he is not. Sutter always has a soft-drink cup with him, and that cup always has booze in it. Beers are always around, since his single mom (Jennifer Jason Leigh) works a lot. He doesn't get trashed, at least not too often, but seems to operate at a slight buzz most of the time.
And he's a senior in high school.
Sutter does really tie one on the night his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) breaks up with him. He wakes up in the front yard of a home he doesn't recognize, with Aimee (Woodley) standing above him. He doesn't really know her, but she knows who he is. She doesn't run with the popular crowd. Instead she is quiet, studious and polite.
She helps Sutter find his car, and he asks if she'd like to do something sometime. You think, oh no. The cool kid is going to string along the socially awkward girl and break her heart, just like in all the movies.
But no. Things don't really happen that way. These are two kids who are wounded, in Sutter's case damaged. Aimee has plans: college, a life after that. Sutter lives for the now, the spectacular now. His enjoyment of the moment barely disguises his fear of what the future may hold.
Sutter's drinking is a problem. Aimee is smart enough to know this, but she's also never had a boyfriend. Sutter teaches her to drink, and you want to wring his neck. At times she seems like she's along for what she knows will be a bumpy ride. At others, she is more grounded and focused.
It's important to stress how good Teller and Woodley are here. (Also Kyle Chandler, playing against type in a small but crucial role as Sutter's long-absent father.) These are relatable characters, with recognizable behaviors and characteristics. “The Spectacular Now” is one of those sneaky movies that you enjoy while you're watching, but has depths that reverberate long after you've left the theater.
Bill Goodykoontz is the chief film critic for Gannett.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- ‘Smaug’ a step up for Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy
- Black-and-white film ‘Nebraska’ a colorful tale
- DVD reviews: ‘Despicable Me 2,’ ‘Fast & Furious 6’ and ‘Adore’
- 3 Christmas movies cap a big year for African-American cinema
- Dark Braddock setting of ‘Out of the Furnace’ reflects a dying way of life
- ‘12 Years,’ ‘Hustle’ lead Golden Globes nominations