Sutter (Miles Teller) doesn't really face a lot of trouble recently.
He's a party-loving, fast-talking clown who lives fast and in the
moment, never thinking of the future. After getting dumped due to a
misunderstanding, he goes out to get wasted, and finds himself being
woken up by Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a regular plain Jane who has
nothing really to offer, but with a very bright future ahead of her.
Sparks fly, love blossoms and scabs are pulled, slowly.
What is remarkable about this familiar coming-of-age tale is that it doesn't pull back any punches. James Ponsoldt's "The Spectacular Now" is a raw, brutally honest film about teenage angst and explorations of self-worth. Ponsoldt and his writers (the same guys who wrote "500 Days of Summer", here basing off Tim Tharp's novel) purposely avert the generic "teen movie" clichés and doesn't rely on melodramatics, all the more transforming the film into a haunting and depressingly realistic exploration of youthful angst and lost chances.
Adding to the realism is just how natural the actors and characters are. If there is any indication to the amazing crop of recent young talent that are popping up in Hollywood, then Teller and Woodley would rank among the better ones so far. The duo doesn't just portray the couple as lovelorn teens - they fit the parts and connect so well that you will believe that these are real people we're watching, and not cardboard caricatures you see on the Disney Channel.
Sutter lives in the now, but tensions are burning behind Teller's eyes, revealing depths and fears that drive him to do so. Aimee is not a popular girl, but she has a soul, waiting for that special someone, her voice breaking even in hushed tones as she's never felt that way before. Every moment between the duo feels so real and raw that it hurts emotionally when they're hurt. All due praise to Teller and Woodley because both are absolutely terrific in their roles, and a salute to promising careers for both of them.
The screenplay is frank, with teenagers talking and acting the way they should in real life, hence the R-rating. I suppose guns, explosions and global destruction are less intense than teenage angst and emotions. No matter. This is a movie that is written and directed with a fiery passion, thanks to Ponsoldt and his crew. Quick-witted, dry humor sprinkle among the more dramatic moments to lend to the rich self- discovering aura of the movie, which lessens as the movie progresses realistically and depressingly to a fitting ending. This is a movie where the quiet moments matter and the emotions boil under the faces, and the audience is too afraid to realize it until it explodes.
Because Ponsoldt and his writers love and respect their characters, this emotional burst will put the audience through the wringer at times, while slightly older viewers will feel a burst of nostalgia flowing through them as they recreate their youth through Sutter and Aimee's eyes.
Just like adolescence, this is a bittersweet yet honest journey, and I for one am joyed that someone treats their characters and audience with equal amounts of respect and intelligent. The characters in this movie are real and true, and so is the emotional punch. "The Spectacular Now" is one of the best films of the year.
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