The Spectacular Now.
I am a sucker for coming-of-age teen indie flicks. While it might be cliche, but I love those emotional punches in the gut and indie teen films usually deliver those in spades. So when a friend of mine told me to check out The Spectacular Now, I was in.
Miles Teller stars as high schooler Sutter, who is a loveable go-with-the-flow kind of guy, who knows everyone and is the life of the party. The movie opens as his girlfriend Cassidy breaks up with him and he begins to question where his life is headed. After a night out drinking, Sutter wakes up on a lawn and meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley), who is a little nerdy and a little quirky but is exactly what he needs. In their final months of being high schoolers, will Aimee’s motivation rub off on Sutter, or will his self-destructive tendencies get the best of him?
The two leads here are stellar. Miles Teller as Sutter is believable in his aloofness and how little he cares for the future. If anything, it’s almost hard to like him. Actually, it’s really hard to like him, except for a few redeeming moments. Shailene Woodley as Aimee is probably the standout here, as she is sweet and honest and her transformation once she meets the outgoing Sutter is interesting to watch unfold.
Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights, Super 8) is likely the other standout, delivering an incredible performance.
I also appreciate some direction here by James Ponsoldt. Many of the more intense and emotional moments are shot in one-take, which is refreshing. It’s an intimate movie and the direction was on-point.
What doesn’t work?
The biggest problem here is that movie doesn’t leave you with anything. There are some emotional moments but the movie lacks that “POW!” that I wanted. The movie ended and I didn’t feel anything. As a character-study, there’s some great work here, but you have to go in with the expectation that it won’t change you or really affect you in any way. As the credits started rolling, I just sat and contemplated what the emptiness meant. We got very little resolution and zero progression for most of the characters. If we got a different ending, I feel like this movie might’ve gotten more mainstream attention and more exposure.
This movie is a great look at two high school soon-to-be graduates and their coping with love, loss, fate, growing up, and living in the moment. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley both knock it out of the park but the movie feels unfinished, like it ends before the real progress happens. If you’re interested though in some really interesting dialogue and some emotional moments, without any sort of payoff, you may love The Spectacular Now. Solid direction and great acting, but the source material feels unfinished.