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The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now

In Theatres: 
Aug 02, 2013

The Spectacular Now was filmed in Athens, Georgia.

Coming of age dramas have had a hell of a year. Perks of Being A Wallflower surprised audiences while movies like King of Summer and The Way, Way Back have captured hearts everywhere. These are all great entries in the genre because they effectively capture the moments we all had when growing up (Not fitting in at high school, being defined by our parents) but didn't let acting and humor take a backseat to the story. Far too often, a coming of age film gets caught up in a story for too long and becomes a dragged on bore (Adventureland). That's why I'm thoroughly disappointed to say that The Spectacular Now isn't as spectacular as it could have been.

Sutter Keeley (Miles Teller) has always been the life of the party. With his girlfriend, Cassidy (Brie Larson), right by his side, they were the "It" couple at every party they went to. But after their break-up, Sutter commits to not losing his cool and staying himself through the remainder of his senior year at high school. The next morning, Sutter wakes up on a random lawn, awoken from his drunken sleep by Aimee Finacky (Shailene Woodley), while on her paper route. The two begin to bond as Sutter realizes how sheltered Aimee is. Almost immediately, the two become inseparable and begin dating. Sutter's mentality on the present hinders his connection between not only Aimee but everyone else in his life. Add this on top of Sutter's absent father (Kyle Chandler) and it's clear why the connection is difficult for his peers. How can Aimee seek her future with a boyfriend who is stuck in the now?

The problem with The Spectacular Now is that we exclusively follow Sutter. Aimee pops in and out but it's clear that our narrative is focused on Sutter. Seeing how many issues he has, this is fine but we don't know who Sutter truly is. In every scene, he has a spiked fountain drink, flask or beer bottle in his hand. Even introduced, he is filling out college applications with a Pabst Blue Ribbon on his desk. So when Sutter says he'll do something and fails to do it, we don't have much interest in him since he lets drinking affect his life. The worst of this situation is that we basically watch the corruption of the beautiful Aimee. When she is first introduced to the party scene (reluctantly), she declines a beer, but is forced to hold on to it to "make it seem like you're having fun". After becoming comfortable, she begins drinking and from there on, grabs any flask she can find and is ecstatic to receive one as a gift. Aimee is actually introduced as an almost blank page. No interests outside of a manga character and a french club. So we're following a couple who have almost no redeeming qualities while together. This makes the 95 minute run time to feel more like 120.

It's a shame that The Spectacular Now isn't as good as it should have been, especially given the great cast backing it. Miles Teller does a good job playing a high school jester who sees himself as a king. Shailene Woodley does what she can here to play off Teller's Sutter but is clearly a step down from her previous performance in The Descendents. Brie Larson's Cassidy, while confusing, is interesting as a girl who must decide between a destructive present or a promising future. The true performance of the film, however, is Kyle Chandler as the absent father, Tommy. It's rather difficult to explain what makes Chandler's Tommy such a great performance without spoiling some interesting development, but it is a much different role than Chandler is used to and he handles it with some of his best work yet. Even Breaking Bad's Bob Odenkirk comes in for two scenes, ultimately to exist for one important line to be recited to his face with no reaction. Odenkirk is simply wasted here.

It's severely disappointing how The Spectacular Now plays out, as there are certain elements that make it much more interesting, but fail to save it over the previous flaws. From the 65 minute mark to about the 80 minute mark, Sutter & Aimee find themselves in some great development for the story, ultimately to let it slide back to the monotonous tone from the first half. Despite the involvement of the writers from (500) Days Of Summer and the director of last year's sundance hit Smashed, things just hit a rut early on and never seem to recover enough to save the film.

A great cast and some interesting ideas can't save The Spectacular Now from slow pacing, weak development and a familiar concept. If you're looking for great coming of age movies, check out The Way, Way Back and catch The Kings of Summer when it hits Blu-Ray/DVD. As for The Spectacular Now, it's just a spectacular misfire.

Ryan Sterritt
Review by Ryan Sterritt
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