- Movie Rating -

The Spectacular Now (2013)

| October 29, 2013 | 0 Comments

What a lovely movie this is. What a breath of fresh air after an onslaught of superficial teen movies about mad slashers and foul-mouthed party animals. What a joy it is, for once, to experience a love story about two teenagers whose passion is driven by mutual attraction rather than the predictable arena of their reproductive organs. The lovers are high school kids. They are young, flawed and uncertain. They engage in sex, but it happens quietly and with great tenderness and care. They pull shyly into each other’s arms. Their story moves with the unpredictability of real life. In that way, we never know how their story will end.

Based on the book by Tim Tharp, “The Spectacular Now” takes its time letting us get to know the people involved. If we met them on the street, we might assume that we already knew everything we needed to know at first glance. One of the pleasures of this fine film is that the deeper the love story gets, the more the characters reveal about themselves. Their trajectory in life is molded by circumstance and by the people around them. We see how a single personality effects another.

The boy is Sutter (Miles Teller), who is always the life of the party. He’s the kind of guy who is so much fun that no one criticizes the fact that he always has a drink in his hand. He has a budding drinking problem that has its rough spots but isn’t overwhelming enough for those around him to tell him to stop. They regard his problem with amusement but their eyes bare deep concern. They laugh at his jokes, but admit freely that “the guy’s a joke.” He works in a store where he is so good with the customers that his boss looks the other way when he comes in with a hangover. At home, he lives with his hard-working mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and sister (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). His dad has been out of the picture so long that Sutter makes up stories about where he might be. In regarding the future, Sutter only sees as far as the end of the day. He takes nothing seriously; he regards school almost as a superfluous afterthought.

The girl is Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a sweet girl with a shy smile and a maturity that surpasses her age. The décor of her bedroom suggests a girl who is only far enough into her teens that she hasn’t quite moved the little girl brick-a-brack from the shelves. Alongside her new ventures into Manga are pictures of unicorns surrounded by puffy pink clouds. She cares deeply about Sutter, not out of need, but out of the kind of tenderness that comes from unexpected teenage attraction.

The two meet under a circumstance that can’t really be called a Meet-Cute. After partying all night, Sutter wakes up on Aimee’s front lawn with a hangover and no real idea of how he got there. They talk. They like each other. He asks her to tutor him in Geometry. They go to a party and wander away into the woods, having the kind of deep naïve conversation that the teenage years are made for. Their conversation reveals the kind of idealism that, in their later years, will be washed away by cynicism and regret. They get to know one another and create the kind of romantic bond that, even if the relationship doesn’t work, will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

It doesn’t take long, however, before Aimee and Sutter begin to realize that their trajectories in life are moving in different directions. Aimee sees a life of college and a career while Sutter sees a life that doesn’t stretch beyond the end of the day. Fate has a cold-water treatment in store for him when he tracks down his absent father (Kyle Chandler) and sees that the old man is a crystal ball image of what he is likely to become – an irresponsible drunk who is written off as: “the guy’s a joke.” What happens in the film’s third act is a complete surprise. This is not the kind of movie the rides the predictable rails of teen drama. It moves with uncertainty so everything isn’t telegraphed in advance.

There’s so much of this story that hasn’t been revealed here. The characters around Sutter and Aimee constitute an entire world seen through their eyes. The characters do things we don’t expect, both wise and unwise. This is the kind of movie that you want to hug. It’s so far removed from your standard love story. It has so many things to say about teenagers, about lovers and about families. When it is over you feel like you’ve grown up with these people. You recognize this couple from your own experience. Sutter and Aimee are two young people engaged in something that we all discovered as teenagers–the unpredictable and irresistible avenues of the human heart.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2013) View IMDB Filed in: Drama, Recent