Based on the novel by Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now, a romantic drama released in 2013, was received warmly by critics and came highly recommended by one of my readers. However, while I loved the premise behind the film and the overall messages, including the fact that you can turn your life around, I didn't love this film. It started out strong and captured my interest, but all that quickly faded. The one element that stayed strong throughout was the performances by both Miles Teller (Whiplash), one of my favorite young actors, and Shailene Woodley (Divergent) who finally delivered a performance that won me over.
"I don't live in the past, I live in the now because that's what it's all about." ~ The Spectacular Now
High school senior, Sutter Keeley (Teller), is known for his partying and excessive drinking. When his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson), gets tired of his reckless behavior and breaks up with him, he accidentally stumbles upon fellow classmate Aimee (Woodley) after passing out on a neighbor's lawn. Heartbroken over his girlfriend dumping him and feeling sorry for himself, Sutter takes an interest in Aimee that starts off as her being a project - take the quiet, unpopular girl, show her some attention and build-up her confidence. Sutter has become good at fixing others, but can't seem to fix himself. In actuality, while Sutter believes he is helping Aimee, she is the one helping him. What he did not expect was that he would actually fall for this girl.
Sutter and Aimee share a bond over the dysfunction of their family lives. Aimee is torn between following her own path and staying at home to take care of her mother. Sutter is struggling with the hostility he has for his mother (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) which stems from unresolved issues he has from his father leaving when he was younger.
While Aimee is a dreamer that plans for her future, Sutter follows his absent father's motto that in order to be happy you have to live in the here and now. The struggle between living in the moment and being responsible is a strong thematic element. But in the end, the biggest lesson for Sutter is his coming to the realization that his biggest obstacle in life is himself.
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The climax of the film is intense as a young man's hero, Sutter's father played by Kyle Chandler, is brought down as the realization of Sutter's deep-seated pain comes to a head. The Spectacular Now is a story of how people come into your life just when you need them the most. Unfortunately, the story dragged for me, and, despite the strong performances, I couldn't empathize with either main character. Aimee's character was generally weak and enabling, and Sutter was a mostly unsympathetic protagonist.
The Spectacular Now is rated R for alcohol use, language and some sexuality all involving teens.
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