Movies
3:11 pm
Mon September 16, 2013

The Spectacular Now

The Spectacular Now
Grade: A-
Director: James Ponsoldt (Smashed)
Screenplay: Scott Neustadter [ (500) Days of Summer], Michael H. Weber (The Pink Panther 2), from Tim Tharp novel
Cast: Miles Teller (Rabbit Hole), Shailene Woodley (The Descendants)
Rating: R
Runtime: 95 min.
by John DeSando

“Life is a series of moments called now.” Sutter (Miles Teller)

It's rare to find a late-teen coming of age film classy and understated like The Spectacular Now. Sutter (a spectacular Teller), fast upon high school graduation, has invested his bonhomie and energy into "now" at the expense of the "future" (read "planning”). Director James Ponsoldt has woven this motif throughout in one of the year's artfully smartest yet most accessible indies.

Almost all Sutter’s concentration is on making others feel loved by him but not understanding he must grow up with them or they will leave him as a rival says, a "joker." His growing love for plain Aimee (Shailene Woodley) reveals his slow maturing into an adult who can go beyond superficial charm and beauty, traits of his romance with Cassidy ( Brie Larson—look for her terrific performance in Short Term 12) although what she wants for him reveals her depth and highlights his immaturity.

We love this guy because he is sincerely but charmingly lost, as many of us were at his age and still are. He is best characterized as a searcher in his love of alcohol and his estranged father, Tommy (Kyle Chandler). For the former, the omnipresent flask serves as warning of his irresponsibility. Alcohol is his friend until he sees it is not.
Dad is another caution revealing that Sutter could end up an alcoholic and lost to himself. I could have done with a much reduced segment with dad. I get the idea, already, about similarity to absent dad. But I have to love this kid: Even losing a job highlights his essential honesty because he can't guarantee his employer that he could stop drinking in order to keep his job.

I am moved by the quiet humanity of The Spectacular Now that so deftly plays the present against the future with actors unusually talented enough to underplay their types and themes universal enough to make the journey back to teen trials a rewarding cinematic one.

John DeSando co-hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at WCBE.org. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com