“The best thing about now, is that there’s another one tomorrow,” said Sutter Keely.
The Spectacular Now is a sample of a coming-of-age romance film that embraces all typical cliches of teen film but ends up not being a banal film. It uniquely forges the conventional boy-meets-girl relationship with their typical angst of future and curiosity into a natural summer beauty. It’s more a vision than an achievement; but, it’s definitely one of the bests in 2013. The thing I regret ’til now is the fact that I missed it in 2013.
James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now is a simple light that turns bright in the way most American teen films don’t. The interpretation of Tim Tharp’s novel into the adapted script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (also the writers of 500 Days of Summer) keeps everything as natural and moving as possible. The film journeys from the happier moments to the not-so-happier-but-more-enlightening moments in parallel lines; or, let’s say, we begin with more convincingly familiar but vaguely move to the “spectacular” side.
It begins with a boy meets a girl arc. Sutter Keely (Miles Teller at his finest), an ordinary teenager who grew drastically during last summer, is no more than a boy who enjoys every party and emanates profound confidence. Ditched by his “best girlfriend”, Cassidy (Brie Larson), he loses in alcohol and ends up waking on a stranger’s lawn where he meets Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley)—a definition of a girl you might ignore in school (according to this film). Their relationship grows from being a companion to each other to becoming a character-driven relationship that finally reveals their teenager’s tantrum and wounds.
In the beginning, it takes time to get into the main character’s head. As the story progresses, you’ll get driven by their emotional state of mind of being American teen with their perspective. Conflicts are presented (mostly) with questions and cliche, like: alcohol, sex, divorce, no future, and more. And that’s what makes this drama great—the relationship of Sutter and Aimee enables each of them to deal with conflicts. However, it doesn’t mean that they’re invincible when they’re together, and they’re savior to each other. Well, it takes more and less an hour to know that such cliche doesn’t exist in this film.
In addition, this film has no ‘bad guy’—another cliche in typical coming-of-age film. Characters are bound to their own reasonable and natural cause; like Cassidy—she’s not a bluntly mean girl—and so her eventual lover has his sympathetic side. While the first half of the film presents a more subtle narrative about good teenager, the second half escalates everything to a teenager-must-choose sphere. Genuine and serious choices are made at this point as this film preaches that there is no right or wrong in choices.
It’s all about chemistry among the casts and the director. I really appreciates Ponsoldt’e effort on igniting the story by avoiding cliches. Yet. most likely. I praise the chemistry between Teller and Woodley; I don’t think that’s an acting. The chemistry between these youngsters smoothly moves the story. Everything’s so naturally beautiful—including MTV’s best kiss scene. Apart from Teller-Woodley’s chemistry, the indie darling, Brie Larson, also delivers her good persona as usual, and Kyle Chandler’s brief performance is so enlightening.
It’s not exaggerating that I praise “The Spectacular Now” is one great film I missed in 2013. Compared to mainstream coming-of-age stories we see lately, this film is a drop in the ocean. It definitely deserves a look or two.
The Spectacular Now (2013)
Drama, Coming of Age, Romance, Comedy, Adaptation Running Time: 95 mins Directed by: James Ponsoldt Written by: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Webber (Screenplay), Tim Tharp (Novel) Starred by: Miles Teller Shailene Woodley Brie Larson Kyle Chandler Mary Elizabeth Winstead