The Spectacular Now

Forgoing the traditional comedic teenage coming-of-age troupes in favor of a more sincere approach to the genre than we normally see at the movies, The Spectacular Now is an appealing and moving, if not altogether revolutionary, young adult picture. Appearing at first glance to be an teen romance about an unlikely couple, along the lines of Say Anything…, the film gradually reveals itself to be the story of a self-confidant school senior whose devil-may-care attitude beings to trip him up as the high-school lifestyle he finds so easy to navigate draws to a close.  If Ferris Bueller's Day Off had been written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan rather than John Hughes it might have turned out something like The Spectacular Now.

Director James Ponsoldt (who made last year's impressive addiction drama Smashed) employs a shooting style as naturalistic as the look and performances of his talented actors. He clearly want to picture to feel honest and “real.” With their blemished complexions and unkempt hair, his two leads are as far from the idealized Hollywood high school kids as you can get away with in a crowd-pleasing Sundance indie.  Miles Teller, one of the many outstanding aspects of John Cameron Mitchell's underrated 2010 film Rabbit Hole, plays the cocky yet vulnerable Sutter Keely.  Shailene Woodley, who was the best part of Alexander Payne's over-rated 2011 Oscar winner The Descendants, plays the inexperienced nice-girl, Aimee Finecky, whom Sutter takes up with after being dumped midway through senior year.

As refreshing as it is to see a teen romance played for drama rather than comedy, the film doesn’t completely succeed in disguising the mechanics of its storytelling.  The picture drags in some places and strains its hard-won credibility in others.  Still, the first rate cast makes it easy to forgive the film its few shortcomings. Woodley especially has such an honest and beguiling screen presence that I wanted to watch the movie again the next day.

Directed by James Ponsoldt
Produced by Michelle Krumm, Andrew Lauren, Shawn Levy, and Tom McNulty

Screenplay by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber
Based on the novel by Tim Tharp

With: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Dayo Okeniyi, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nicci Faires, Andre Royo, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Levi Miller, and Bob Odenkirk

Cinematography: Jess Hall
Editing: Darrin Navarro
Music: Rob Simonsen

Runtime: 95 min
Release Date: 05 December 2013
Aspect Ratio: 2.35 : 1