Fresh from seeing Shailene Woodley in the hit movie Divergent, I came across this indie flick which she co-starred with another Divergent alum Miles Teller. This production premiered in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, way before the Divergent film came out.
Sutter Keeley (Miles Teller) is an 18 year old drunk who has a natural coolness and charisma about him that draws people to him, making him one of the most popular kids in school without even trying. He has the natural ability to make people smile and carries his drunkenness so casually that without knowing the contents of his soda cup, people would just think he’s really just enjoying a giant beverage. When Sutter’s popular girlfriend suddenly breaks up with him, he finds himself passed out on the lawn of one of his classmates, the shy and innocent Aimee Fineckey (The Spectacular Now) and the two start to form a bond borne from shared tragedies suffered in their young lives.
The Spectacular Now was adapted for the screen by the writers of 500 Days of Summer so there were obvious similarities in the approach to character development. Instead of a quirky girl however, TSN focused on the life Sutter, whose troubles with alcohol and his happy go lucky attitude was truly a recipe for a disastrous ending. Its a credit to Miles Teller that he managed to make Sutter a character that truly reaches out to the audience. he succeeded in translating a vulnerability and a substance to his character that lay underneath the facade of a cheerful and fun loving teen and it was that quality that made people like Sutter. Like his schoolmates, his family, and his girlfriends, its hard not to fall for Sutter despite his faults.
Shailene Woodley, on the other hand, seemed different in her role as an insecure and shy teenager who was mostly invisible in school had it not been for Sutter’s attentions. Her uncertainty and her anxiousness made a great foil for Sutter’s confidence and bravado and made their team up work.
There were times in the movie that audiences will want to clonk Sutter for being dense and for being somewhat a bad influence to Aimee. And there were times that the story fell into predictability but at the core of the movie is a message that was relateable, realistic and inspiring. And perhaps, this was the message that most viewers responded to when they gave this movie glowing reviews.
All in all, despite the constant worry that viewers will feel for Sutter and Aimee, the movie manages to pull off a great coming of age film about living in the moment but not discounting the future. The Spectacular now is an effective reflection of youth issues and what the value of family is to teenagers. Its about understanding one’s self worth and making the most out of one’s life. More than a love story, its a story about growing up. I, for one, didn’t think that it was spectacular per se but it had a lot of great moments and a lot of quotable quotes to think about.
The Spectacular Now was based on the novel of Tim Tharp.