Sunday, December 28, 2014







Run Time: 95 min.


Not your average teenage rom-com.

Sometimes a film is rises above by not being something: not being pretentious, not being manipulative and not being dishonest or stereotypical.  The Spectacular Now treats its lead characters, who happen to be teenagers, exactly as what they are: young adults.  Sutter Keely, played superbly by Miles Teller, is an 18-year old high school senior.  He is young, confident, intelligent and above all, charming.  He is effortlessly the life of any party.  Oh by the way, he is also an alcoholic. 

We meet Sutter as he is filling out his college application form and reflecting on his life.  His girlfriend has recently broken up wiith him and he is out drinking.  He ends up passed out on a front lawn and is found by Amy Finecky who is out on a paper route.  Amy is his classmate but Sutter has not been aware of her existence so far.  As he accompanies Aimee on the rest of her route, an interesting relationship begins. 

Aimee is a bright and ambitious wallflower who is beyond happy to be noticed by someone like Sutter.  Sutter sees Aimee as a platonic “project” at first but cannot help himself being romantically drawn to her.  There is a spontaneous and unexpected compatibility in their relationship.  They challenge each other to achieve greater heights not because they are blinded by love but because each sees the spark and potential in the other.  They both come from broken incomplete homes but approach life differently.  Aimee is hopeful about the future and is willing to work hard to get to a better place.  Sutter lives in the moment, the now, not willing to let a good time pass him by.

Sutter’s relationship with his mother is tense and he looks up to his perception of his father who has been absent for most of his life.  After meeting Aimee, Sutter happens to find out his father’s whereabouts and they set out on a road trip to visit him.  The encounter marks a significant turn not only in Sutter’s coming of age but also in his relationship with Aimee.  The script does a terrific job of depicting the growth of both characters in a real, believable manner.  It allows for their flaws without affecting the likeability of the two leads.  Neustader and Weber prove that (500) Days of Summer was not a fluke.

The two leads are perfectly cast.  Miles Teller shines as Sutter, making a character with serious flaws extremely likeable.  This is crucial to the success of the film as it is narrated from Sutter’s perspective.  Teller reminds me a little bit of John Cusack from Say Anything.  Shailene Woodley is very credible as the girl-next-door who blossoms into a beautiful and assertive young lady.  This is not the case of your typical rom-com makeovers where the ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan.  The physical changes are subtle but transformation is more in her demeanor as she discovers her confidence and strength.

Director James Ponsoldt does a fine job of keeping the focus on his two leads and not letting the film meander.  The secondary characters in the script are portrayed with enough care to make them believable as well as add color to the lead character's personality.  Sutter’s ex-girlfriend, her new beau, Sutter’s family (sister and parents) as well as his boss who owns the shop where he works: all these characters are well, if not fully, drawn and don’t fit the stereotypical mold of this genre.  His ex-girfriend's character would be made into a caricature in most other rom-coms but here she provides another perspective on Sutter which is reasonable.  The following example of an exchange between Sutter and his boss, Dan, reveals a lot about both in a just couple of lines:

Dan:   If I was your father, this is where i might give you a lecture or something, you know, about what you're doing to yourself.
Sutter:   You know what Dan, if you were my Dad, you wouldn't have to.

The final half hour or so of the film clearly moves away from a lighter mood to a definitely darker tone.  But that is remaining honest to the evolution of the lead characters' lives rather than sugar coating it.  Some might say that the ending is perhaps a little "Hollywood" but it provides hope for the characters that we have become fond of.  Also it might be the end of a chapter rather than the whole story so I don't consider it a cop-out.  This is clearly one of the better young-adult films out there and well worth your time.