Log in

No account? Create an account
entries friends calendar profile Previous Previous Next Next
SIFF ADVANCE: The Spectacular Now - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
SIFF ADVANCE: The Spectacular Now
Directing: B+
Acting: A-
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B+

There's a bit of a catch-22 going on in The Spectacular Now. One might think it's a great compliment to say there are few other movies that depict teenagers so realistically -- especially in the dialogue, the way these kids talk to each other. On the other hand, does that make them more or less compelling. Consider this: if this actually were real, and we were following teenagers all over the town they live in, just listening to the stuff they say -- who on earth would find that interesting? Unless they're displaying some rare (and non-creepy) brand of precociousness, teenage topics of discussion just aren't interesting to most adults.

That's how I felt during much of this movie, anyway. Sutter (Miles Teller), a hard-partying high schooler who drinks way too much, easily charms high school girls around him with the stupid shit he says. He thinks he's being funny. The girls actually laugh -- maybe only because he's confident and cute? I listen to thim and think, Ugh. Shut up. Any girl with half a brain would be wise to say the same thing. The same goes with Sutter's best friend Ricky (Masam Holden), who Sutter is initially obsessed with getting laid, although that bit never gets fully explored. Perhaps it's to illustrate Sutter's obsession with "living in the now."

Sutter is convinced that neither the past nor the future matter. In one poignant scene, Sutter says to a teacher, "What's so great about growing up? Are you happy?"

And therein lies the surprising depth to The Spectacular Now, how the story itself sneaks up on you, while you're getting distracted by these annoyingly reckless teenagers. Sutter's drinking really is a problem -- he carries around a flask, even pouring booze into his restaurant cups he brings to work -- and when he meets Aimee (the fantastic Shailene Woodley, from The Descendants), he gets her to drinking just like he does, although she is, as Sutter describes her, "A nice girl." And she is indeed a nice girl, a smart one too -- she tutors Sutter on his geometry -- except that she naively accepts the drinking thing as perfectly acceptable.

Sutter is constantly drinking out of that flask, and regularly driving at the same time. It goes on so long you begin to wonder if the film is even going to address his drinking directly. To its credit, director James Ponsoldt eventually handles this in a very satisfactory way.

The Spectacular Now is not a perfect movie, but there is greatness in it. It rewards the patient audience willing to wait for the subtle and very moving ways these kids find themselves growing up. I went from fidgety at the beginning of this movie to completely absorbed by the end. It turns out to be a bit of a tear jerker. This is no teenage romp; this is serious stuff -- the kids just take a while to figure that out. The performances are great across the board, although it's a little jarring to see Kyle Chandler playing a douche bag.

Maybe this movie would actually speak well to teenage audiences. I can't say for sure since I'm not a teen myself, but it sure feels like the kids in this movie actually speak their language. Assuming they do, then kids certainly should see this movie. They might be engaged by the story and learn something at the same time.

Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley discover new meaning in THE SPECTACULAR NOW.

Overall: B+
Leave a comment