"The Spectacular Now" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
There are many teenager coming-of-age romance films where the main stars don't feel or act like teenagers. Either the dialogue or the events that they find themselves in are very unrealistic to what happens in the world of teenagers today. Then, we have James Sonsoldt's absolutely beautiful film, "The Spectacular Now", which is perhaps the best portrayal of teenagers in a romance film that I have ever seen. From Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley's brilliant acting performances to the dialogue and the story throughout, everything is done to perfection in my opinion; this may easily be one of my favorite romance films of all time.
Teller plays Sutter Keely, who is a hard-partying, alcoholic high school senior that is unsure of where he is going in life. He doesn't think much about the future, but only focuses on the now, not aware of the consequences his actions lead to. Now broken-up with after a misunderstanding, he is sort of floundering when he passes out on a random front lawn one day, where he is encountered by Aimee (Woodley), who is a girl that goes to his school. After taking an interest in Aimee, citing that he can "help her out" of her shell and make new friends, they form a genuine friendship, one that either of them haven't really had before.
However, both of them find themselves falling for the other, prompting them to take their friendship to the next level. But, when personal family drama and moving to college starts to come in front of their loving relationship, they must figure out a way to keep their relationship and love for one another alive through all their hardships.
Let's just start with one of the best thing about this movie - Teller and Woodley, and the characters they play. Sutter is the average F-boy; he parties and drinks all the time and has sex with whoever whenever he wants. He can easily charm the pants off anyone he meets. It seemed like there was no taming this wild animal, until he meet Aimee. Aimee is the complete opposite: shy, reserved, a book-worm, genuinely nice to everyone she is around. But, what makes her so special is her innocence and how she puts everyone before herself. This is especially evident in the scene towards the end of the film, where they almost get in a car accident because Sutter was driving drunk. Instead of yelling at him or chewing him out, her immediate response is to make sure he is O.K., which even surprises him.
Of course you know these characters are going to change through the course of the story, it's a given. But, the way that writers Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber, and Tim Tharp show this course of change is absolutely beautiful. Sure, any bad boy can change for the nice girl in that second, and the nice girl can fall for it. But, how long is that going to last? Nine times out of ten, college or another unforeseeable event is going to split that couple up. But, I don't think that is going to happen here; these filmmakers took such care of the characters that they are meant to last. In my opinion, I think it might be one of the most beautiful relationship progressions I've seen on film.
Teller and Woodley are perfect in this film. From the way they portray the characters to the chemistry they have on-screen, it is flawless in every sense of the word. I have always applauded Teller's acting, and I am a pretty big fan of his. But he has this charming charisma about him, and this film shows just how deep that charisma goes to being profound grief and heartache. His demeanor and body language says one thing, but the tiny little details in his facial expressions say something completely different. Woodley, on the other hand, is impossible not to love in this movie. Her character is written so beautifully, and she translates that to the screen what seems like effortless. I think both of them gave fantastic performances here, and I would honestly love to see them do another movie like this together.
Going back to the story, it revolves around the relationship between the two high schoolers, but that is not all it is focused on. It also deals with Aimee and the issues with her mother, Sutter having a hard time in school and dealing with the future, Sutter having this perfect image of his father (Kyle Chandler) and having a horrific view of his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh), even though he doesn't realize how wrong he is, and so much more. They do this all in an hour and thirty minutes. Some movies can't even accomplish all of this emotional depth in two or two and a half hour movies. The whole movie is so concise and perfectly timed and paced, which pays off in the end.
I honestly have nothing but good things to say about this movie. Everything is done so beautifully and amazingly that it is hard to have any negative criticism towards this movie. I said it earlier and I'll say it again, this is easily now one of my all-time favorite romance films, and might be one of my favorite of the numerous great films A24 has released the past few years. I seriously wish that more romance films were made like this.