The Spectacular Now

Nothing spectacular happens in this movie – 2/5 The_Spectacular_Now_film

I think I need to stop focusing so much on Rotten Tomato scores when choosing films to watch because I’ve been disappointed in films a few times now that have scores of 90+ percent and never more so by The Spectacular Now.

Miles Teller plays teenager Sutter, popular at high school because of his outgoing, easygoing personality and his reputation as the life of the party. He’s also a not so secret alcoholic. He’s dating his dream girl Cassidy (Brie Larson) but embarrassing her at a party in a fit of drunkenness she dumps him. He of course turns to drink to drown his sorrows and ends up waking up the next day on a lawn to see a girl from his year Aimee (Shailene Woodley) staring down at him. Aimee is quiet, smart and doesn’t go to parties so he’s never talked to her before, but the two hit it off, introducing each other to the their lives behind their retrospective high school stereotypes.

Miles and Shailene are well cast but I very much felt the script let them down. Aimee was not allowed to be a a fully fleshed character, she was given the trait of liking manga at the beginning (as if that’s so unusual and unique) and then it was literally never mentioned again. For the rest of the film she’s reduced to smiling at Sutter and wanting to go to college. And the bit she starts talking about her dad dying at a dinner party in front of a bunch of strange adults was completely out of the blue and unrealistic.
Miles was given a bit more to work with and he plays Sutter as flawed but ultimately goodhearted person allowing us to feel the right amount of sympathy but also frustration at his self destruction. His alcoholism was never spoken aloud, always shown by the automatic way he took to his flask and alcohol spiked slushie. And they way Aimee accepted this drinking and almost encouraged it was symbolic of her naivety about the normal teenagers, probably thinking this was how everyone behaved. The only scene where I felt anything was after the prom when they’re hanging about an empty hallway overlooking their school’s floodlit oval. Their dialogue finally feels comfortable and they exude a completely oblivious and happy teenage relationship made all the more poignant with the obvious forshadowing that something bad is going to happen.

Unfortunately neither of the characaters engaged me enough to keep my interest in a story where nothing happens that we haven’t seen before. Sutter confirms his absent dad is a dick, no surprises there. His drinking causes him to hurt Aimee and then his self pity causes him to abandon her despite her repeatedly telling him how much she cares about him. Obviously in real life the things Sutter goes through are very serious, but unfortunately the film does not make me care about them in fiction. And after obvious attempts by the filmmakers to avoid the cliche, the ending is the most cliche. I probably wouldn’t be so harsh if I hadn’t been promised that 93% enjoyment, I blame Rotten Tomatoes.

Year: 2013
Director: James Ponsoldt (The End of the Tour)
Screenplay: Michael H. Webber & Scott Neustadter (500 Days of Summer, The Fault in Our Stars, Paper Towns, Me Before You)
Starring: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
Length: 1 hour 40 minutes

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