A Very Bubblewrapped Homecoming: The Spectacular Now

I’m about three months out from completing my M.A. in film studies. Part of this last semester is taking a film reviewing class, so in order to get back into the groove of blogging I decided to share my reviews. Each week we watch a film that is either a classic or from last year’s crop of stunners, and the following week we turn in a review with a maximum of 375 words. The word limit is the real challenge because I often have more to say about a movie than 375 words can convey, but that is part of the fun too. Learning to be concise is one of the toughest lessons a writer faces. It’s right up there with getting past the dreaded blinking cursor. So without further ado, here are my brief thoughts on The Spectacular Now.

Here is the trailer, if you’re interested.

Everyone remembers high school, but few people want to stay in that moment forever.  The exception to the rule is Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), the eternal good-time-guy in James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now (2013). Staring down the barrel of a blank college application and an uncertain future, Sutter would like nothing better than to continue his tenure as party king of his local high school. After being dumped by his girlfriend, Sutter seeks refuge in shy, geeky Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodly), who challenges his perceptions of how to connect with another person. His ubiquitous spiked Big Gulp in hand, Sutter must decide whether to join his peers in growing up or to stagnate in his small town.

Miles Teller consistently plays the incorrigible slacker. It is a role that Teller has all but perfected in films such as 21 & Over (2013) and That Awkward Moment (2014) where his charm and wit enable a lonesome friend to discover something about themselves. If this is to be Teller’s niche as an actor, then his performance is spot on. Shailene Woodly is equally charismatic as Aimee, though in a quieter, more endearing way. From the offset Aimee is positioned as an angelic force in Sutter’s life, and Woodly plays the character with such finesse that she does not feel as if she is acting. The dynamic, natural chemistry between Woodly and Teller is what makes The Spectacular Now seem like well edited reality rather than a stylized studio film.

Pondsolt’s film straddles the divide between teen comedy and serious drama with remarkable ease. It is the quintessential quiet Independent film with some loud thoughts on life. While there are many themes that the story grapples with—the perils of facing the future, battling addiction in its many forms, or the unforgiving throes of first love—The Spectacular Now is able to address each troubling concept with a raw honesty that audiences will be drawn to.

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