“The Spectacular Now” (2013) Sutter (Miles Teller), a high school senior who is just happy living in the present. He seems to have everything you would want; he’s popular, has a good job, and his girlfriend is the prettiest girl in high school. What more could a guy want? Suddenly everything comes crashing down around Sutter when his girlfriend dumps him, leaving his once happy-go-lucky world now in tatters. Sutter then meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley) who isn’t like anyone he has ever met before and just might be the person to get him back on track. Main Image Courtesy of A24
The first meeting of Sutter and Aimee is one of the most interesting and unique “meet cute” scenes that I have ever seen. Sutter, having been dumped by his girlfriend, goes on a drinking binge and is awakened by Aimee at 6 in the morning, having passed out on the front lawn of a neighborhood house. You instantly see why everyone loves Sutter as he charms Aimee into giving him a ride around the neighborhood to look for his car. The conversation they have as he helps her deliver her morning paper route, foretells their relationship that will develop in the film as Sutter slowly gets the story that it’s not Aimee’s paper route but her mom’s. Sutter’s big character flaw is that he cares about everyone else, much more than himself. Sutter claims to be satisfied with “living in the now” but we know or at least, have a feeling that it might just be for show his claims of happiness.
The script was written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, the writing team that brought us the brilliant, offbeat romantic comedy “500 Days of Summer.” This film is filled with real situations and real characters. A film that treats teenagers like they aren’t props, unlike what most “Hollywood” films see them as, but as people that have conversations that have depth and substance. The dialogue in this film, while witty, seems like conversations that teenagers would actually have with one another. The movie, while funny at times, shows teenagers dealing with real life situations. They deal with single parents, trouble with school work and trying to figure out what their place in the world is.
Miles Teller is amazing in the role of Sutter, bringing a likeable grace and style to the screen reminiscent of an early Jimmy Stewart, with a little bit of John Cusack thrown in. Teller is able to instantly make you like him, a necessity for a character that can charm almost anyone. Teller has superb timing that allows his scenes with other actors to just flow naturally. The chemistry between himself and Shailene Woodley is compelling as you understand why these two very different characters are drawn together. Woodley, coming off of outstanding appearance in 2011’s “The Descendants,” is perfect in the role of the book smart but shy Aimee. Woodley has a genuine feel to her acting, making it seem that her character is authentic and vulnerable, while also exhibiting maturity to the role.
The supporting cast is excellent. Brie Larson is delightful as Sutter’s ex-girlfriend Cassidy, who wants a future, something that Sutter can’t think about. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, as Sutter’s big sister, isn’t asked to do much with her role. We know that Winstead is capable of great range, having witnessed her incredible performance as the alcoholic wife in 2012’s “Smashed.” The actors that stand out in their roles are Jennifer Jason Leigh as Sutter’s mom and Kyle Chandler as Sutter’s long estranged father. Leigh brings sadness and a weight to her role as the single mom trying to make ends meet. Chandler is outstanding in a thankless role.
The film was directed by Georgia native James Ponsodlt in Athens, GA which gives the film an air of accuracy. As the scenery is filled with small town icons such as the men’s clothing store and the comic shop. Ponsodlt gives us a film that is about teenagers that is accurate and bona fide in its look and feel.
The film can be heartbreaking at times because it deals with some tough issues, but ultimately, it’s a movie about friendship and the importance of love. This is a movie that is filled with warmth, humor, great writing and acting making it one of the best films of the year. My Rating: I Would Pay to See it Again
“The Spectacular Now” opens today in Atlanta at Regal Tara Cinemas 4