John Hughes was a master of the craft of understanding the mind of the teenager, and it’s very rare to see a film now-a-days that doesn’t pander or insult that kind of audience or any audience for that matter. So James Ponsoldt‘s coming of age comedy drama The Spectacular Now, gets into the mind of a high school senior who lives in the “now” and is afraid to admit that the future is coming. It is a kind of film that reminds us of what it was like to be at an at a place in life where you experience young love and are mere steps away from walking into an unknown future full of potential.
This isn’t the first time that Ponsoldt has explored the issues of alcoholism, nor is it the second. But alcohol consumption in The Spectacular Now serves a different purpose, as it is used more as a cautionary tale to the teenagers who are or are thinking about drinking. While the subject matter and choice language garnered an R rating, thus hindering the message getting out to the target audience, it is a story that we can all remember and relate to. Hit the jump for the full review.
Sutter Keeley (Miles Teller of 21 And Over) is a smooth talking high school senior who is seemingly loved by everyone at school, at work, and teachers. However his live in the moment personality conflicts with everyone who is graduating and heading off to college, which happens to be one of the reasons he breaks up with his girlfriend. To get himself over a hard break up, Keely goes out for a night of heavy drinking, he wakes up from his drunken stupor only to see Aimee Finicke (Shailene Woodley of The Descendants) make sure he isn’t dead. This leads to the plot of the two ending up helping each other out. Sutter helps Aimee come out of her shell, and Aimee helps Sutter discover his true potential.
It may not sound like an interesting plot at first, but the film goes through so many motions, and riveting twists that it is enough to keep the audiences attention glued to the screen. As aforementioned, Sutter is certainly smarter than he looks, but doesn’t give himself enough credit for being who he is. As for Aimee, she is a very intelligent but extremely shy and naive wallflower who hopelessly falls in love with Sutter. There is a definite spark between the two characters as the actors are able to feed off each others energy, giving the film a more natural feel to it, which allows the audience to relate to the material.
If anything The Spectacular Now has plenty of high and low moments which can mirror how life can be for the average high school student. Ponsoldt goes a fantastic job building up the tension in the film then revealing the repercussions of early teenage drinking. There isn’t a moment in this film where he tries to make this into some sort of PSA, instead he uses a script written by Scott Neustader and Michael H. Weber, based on Tim Thrap‘s novel of the same name, effectively.
That’s definitely something to cheer about because in the end it doesn’t feel like it is insulting the audience, while at the same time it shimmers like John Hughes had directed the thing.
While Teller and Woodley are the stars of the film, we have to give credit to some of the supporting cast as well. Brie Larson plays Cassidy, Sutter’s on again off again girlfriend; Jennifer Jason Leigh as Sutter’s loving mother with her own set of problems; Mary Elizabeth Winstead in a reduced but strong role as Sutters domesticated older sister; and Kyle Chandler as Sutter’s father, but not the kind of father figure we are used to see him as.
The only thing that I worry about is the film missing it’s target audience. Yes, there are plenty of F-bombs, teens drinking, and some sexuality, all involving teens, but I feel it’s an important message that needs to be heard by that particular audience. Because The Spectacular Now doesn’t insult their intelligence, instead it relates to them and understands who they are.