Review – The Spectacular Now

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     Poignant, charming and very much real. The Spectacular Now
is a high school story which carefully avoids the clichés and
stereotypes too often found in teen movies. It is impossible to put any of the
characters into the typical high school groups, and their difficulties are far
greater issues than simply trying to become popular. This film is a refreshing
dose of reality, in a genre that often feels artificial and untrue.

     While this film may initially be thought
of as a romance, and indeed this storyline is crucial, the real story is Sutter’s
(Miles Teller) personal growth. Afraid of growing up and having to take life seriously,
the appearance of Aimee (Shailene Woodley) kick-starts a series of changes for
him. At first, it may seem as though Aimee is the one who will change, as
Sutter shows her what a relationship can be. Aimee is in love for the first
time, and is consumed by it, as every girl is. However, she is not the typical
nice girl she first appears to be, and Woodley portrays all her facets and
complexities in such a way that she becomes an entirely realistic and
believable character. However, Sutter’s transformation is far deeper and more
difficult, as he must overcome his fears of life changing and letting himself
care for people. He must face harsh truths about his own family, and his
struggle to deal with these facts is emotional and moving. Teller expresses
every emotion his character experiences, from reckless abandon to complete
hopelessness, with skill and credibility.
     At first, there is the vague sense that Sutter
may just be screwing with Aimee, rebounding from his recent breakup, but Teller
and Woodley’s chemistry is so strong and believable, these concerns don’t last
for long. Their relationship seems delicate and fragile, as is to be expected
between people so young. As a realist when it comes to love, I frequently find
relationships in films to be melodramatics and unrealistic, but the intensity
of this one works, as young lovers do fall fast and hard. In the real world,
many high school relationships don’t last forever, but Sutter and Aimee have
such a profound effect on each other’s lives, you can’t help but hope theirs
does.
     While the acting is excellent, it can only
be produced when performing a strong script, which is exactly what this film
has. Everything about it feels real, from the sorts of difficulties the
characters must face, to their speech, which sounds like that of real
teenagers, to the characters, which are multi-faceted and complex enough to be
believable. One of the key things to make a film great for me is a script that
keeps me on my toes. There is nothing worse than predicting a film’s ending and
then being proven right. This takes all surprise and wonder out of the story.
The ending of The Spectacular Now is not particularly surprising or unusual,
but it avoids using anything overly clichéd, to maintain its plausibility.
Indeed, the film overall is not ground-breaking or entirely unique – but it is
certainly realistic and complex enough to elevate it above most other teen
films. A thoroughly enjoyable watch.

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