“Goodbye, I say, goodbye, as I disappear little by little into the middle of the middle of my own spectacular now”
― Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now
Based on a 2010 young adult book by Tim Harp, The Spectacular Now introduces us to our lead Sutter Keely (Miles Teller). Sutter is charmed his peers, he was the life of the party, had a popular girlfriend (Brie Larson), a budding alcoholic, and have zero plans for his future. Then after a breakup that leads to him passing out at a random lawn, Sutter met Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley). Aimee is not part of Sutter’s usual circle, she’s a nice girl who read manga and love sci-fi, not the type Sutter usually went for. But apparently opposite does attract, with her teaching him geometry and him giving her alcohol and her very own flask. The two teenagers immediately found themselves gravitate to one another.
Duo screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (previously known for their original screenplay debut, (500) Days of Summer), took the challenge to adapting a hard YA book here. The two characters need to be explored through such careful eyes. It’s only so easy to make Sutter ended up looking like a baby douchebag instead of a human. The two lead bonded over the lost of their dad and their need to stood up to their mother. I love how fleshed out the characters are and how the director portray them with as much realism as possible. I love listening to their conversations about their day, their awkwardness and vulnerability, as well as how organic their relationship developed.
The characters of The Spectacular Now is not really fitting into any formulaic archetype, all of them are so grounded and filled with flaws and imperfections, which are contributing factors that made these youths become so relatable. Sheilene Woodley quickly become one of the young actress that i love, and i adore the delicate ingenuity she brought to her character. Her devotion to Sutter is something i don’t understand though, she has goals and passions in her life, while he’s satisfied with living in the now. The broken hero, Sutter, believed all he need in life is already in his hand: a car, a job, and whisky infused 7-up drinks. More of a YOLO-believer than carpe fucking diem, if you ask me. And i spent the 2/3 part of the movie wondering why do they make a film about a baby alcoholic. I think the film intent of creating a character study of Sutter become obvious once Sutter visit his estranged dad. But even after that, changes does not occurs instantaneously. And I have to love it for that.
The Spectacular Now is very mature coming of age film that young adults must see. Sadly enough it was given an R rating which would limit the audience. I applaud the director and the writer for delivering such tale with such a careful hands. Creating a coming-of-age tale that is relatable and grounded is no easy feat. The ending even has a poetic parallel to these teenagers’ transition to adulthood as well: things are just about to begin.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW (2013)
GENRE Coming of Age, Drama, Comedy
DIRECTOR James Ponsoldt | PRODUCER Tom McNulty, Shawn Levy, Michelle Krumm, Andrew Lauren | WRITER Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber | MUSIC Rob Simonsen | CINEMATOGRAPHER Jess Hall | EDITOR Davin Navarro | STUDIO 21 Entertainment | DISTRIBUTOR A24 | COUNTRY United States | RATING R for alcohol use, language, and some sexuality – all involving teenagers | RUNNING TIME 95 minute | RELEASE August 2, 2013
STARRING Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler
DID YOU KNOW? Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller would reunite in another young adult book adaptation Divergent as enemies. She would appear in yet another YA book adaptation John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars which writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber adapted into screenplay.