The Spectacular Now
Teen angst is a tough balancing act to pull off well. You’re dealing with people who have a roof over their heads, 3 square meals a day, yet don’t have to pay for any of it. “What are you complaining about?” is the response from most adults. But think back. Young adults are on the precipice of adulthood and adolescence can be a very difficult time for some. Every so often a movie comes along that captures the experience with such ease, you feel as though you’re watching real life. The Spectacular Now is such a movie.
This journey of self-discovery was adapted by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber from a novel by Tim Tharp. However I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention Cameron Crowe’s Say Anything. Not only does the fast talking charmer protagonist in The Spectacular Now form affecting relationships similar to those in the late 80s classic, but star Miles Teller physically resembles John Cusack (mixed with a little Jonah Hill). The story concerns one Sutter Keely, a confident high school senior with an easy going charm, that everyone seems to gravitate toward. Although he’s neither an athletic jock nor ‘A’ student. He’s just a fun-loving dude that people enjoy because of his genial personality. Ok so he’s a party guy. Alright he likes to drink. Into his existence wanders one Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley) the quintessential “good girl” that is sweetness personified. Apparently she’s also supposed to be a sci-fi loving social outcast, but her stunning physical beauty betrays that label. She’s clearly movie “geeky” not real world “geeky.” To his surprise, he is taken with this gentle creature despite the fact that he really wants to get back with his ex-girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson). To Aimee’s surprise, this guy is giving her the time of day. She falls for him. He falls for her. But their relationship is anything but that simple.
The Spectacular Now is no syrupy story regarding star-crossed lovers. It’s a caustic relationship concerning two people that perhaps shouldn’t be together. They may be technically high school age but their relationship is fraught with the complexities of an adult relationship at its most dysfunctional . He gives her a monogrammed flask as a prom gift. As the audience you want to shake her out of her dedication to this boy who seems all wrong for her. Even he is afflicted with self doubt. I think at its heart, this tale is a love story about how opposites attract. Sutter is plagued by an arrested development. He wants to live in the now without ambition for something more. Aimee on the other hand is generous and sweet. She’s drawn to the “cool” kid, but she’s almost too forgiving – like a case study from Robin Norwood’s mid-80s bestseller Women Who Love Too Much. Their interactions are so mesmerizing, they’re hypnotic. Occasionally the drama succumbs to pat situations. Sutter’s estranged father is written with predictable character flaws seemingly by a first year PSYC 101 student. A few missteps aside, the script is largely unpredictable. Both Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are pretty phenomenal. They should be on the cusp of superstardom. That is, provided they continue to get roles that play to their strengths. Their moving portrayals are the reason The Spectacular Now is so engaging.