After witnessing the majesty that is The Spectacular Now, it is easy to see how the film won the Sundance Acting Award. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are a match made in heaven and this film should firmly plant them on the map of go-to Hollywood young stars that need to be everywhere. Well, Woodley for one, has a big gig coming up as the lead in Divergent… and who should be her supporting actor in that blockbuster in waiting? Teller!
Teller and Woodley are fantastic together, and that is perhaps why they are appearing in two films together this year. Their chemistry is the key to The Spectacular Now and its coming-of-age story of two recent high school graduates who have different views on life and yet somehow, they manage to come together in the most innocently romantic of ways.
The Spectacular Now's lead character is clearly Teller’s Sutter Keely. The opening moments of the film find him at a desk, typing on a computer. He is penning his essay for a college application and we learn a bit about him through Teller’s narration. Sutter is clearly a lost soul. He thinks he knows it all, but in fact that opinion could be furthest from the truth.
Sutter has the dream girlfriend, at least so he thinks. When she breaks his heart in the opening moments of the film, he is even more lost than before. After a drunken night, he is passed out on a random suburban front lawn and Woodley’s Aimee awakes him. Immediately there’s a spark between these two, but in the cutest of awkward ways.
Aimee is a straight-A student, who finds joy in the pages of a book more than a raging kegger. As opposed to Sutter, she has a firm direction and knows not only where she wants to go in her future, but she keenly is aware of how to get there. Yet, she could learn a few things about life as well from Sutter.
That is at the core of why The Spectacular Now works so well. It is even teased brilliantly in The Spectacular Now trailer. Teller and Woodley’s characters need each other, more than they could ever have predicted. They could not be more different, but that is why they gel. Aimee could use some fun, and Sutter is definitely in need of some structure.
James Ponsoldt's direction is evenhanded and light. He orchestrates a teen drama with the most effortless nature, yet it still packs the punch it needs. Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber have given their director and his cast a gem to work with. The dialogue is smart, crisp, humorous, heartfelt and will tug at your heart.
Our The Spectacular Now review finds that it is the rare teen-centric movie that manages to treat youngsters as fully formed individuals, who just happen to be experiencing the first chapters of their lives.