The Spectacular Now is a film directed by James Ponsoldt, with a screenplay written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. The film is a coming-of-age story about Sutter Keely and Aimee Finecky, two high school seniors who meet and fall hard into the thrilling but perilous world of young love. Sutter and Aimee’s relationship endures many trials and tribulations, and the confusing, haunting passion of adulthood and love permeates the screen with vivid intensity.
James Ponsoldt, a filmmaker with only three movies currently to his credit, directed the film, but even though he is relatively unknown in cinematic circles, his treatment of this story is strikingly prodigious. Aside from great acting, which I will get to soon, the film instantly became one of my favorites from 2013 because of an award-worthy screenplay. The script was written by Neustadter and Weber, the writers from one of my all-time favorite romantic dramedies, (500) Days of Summer. The two films are similar but also starkly different in all the best ways, and the writing duo has penned another classic that will join (500) Days of Summer in my personal film collection.
The film also features terrific leading performances from two of the most rapidly up-and-coming young actors in Hollywood: Miles Teller as Sutter and Shailene Woodley as Aimee. I first saw Teller in 2010’s Rabbit Hole, and his passionate performance in that film led me to believe that he would be equally as wonderful in The Spectacular Now—but I was wrong, because he was even better here. In this performance, Teller left it all out “on the field,” so to speak, and his immersion into the character greatly benefits this touching tale. Another heart-warming performance came from Woodley. Along with the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Elizabeth Olsen, and Elle Fanning, Shailene Woodley is one of the brightest young actresses in the business, and she can add this adoring portrayal to her budding filmography. Aimee is the plain, “good girl” at school, and Woodley delineates these qualities with composure beyond her years. The X-factor in this film is honestly the chemistry between both Teller and Woodley—connections likes these are often overlooked in this genre of film, but the relationship is utterly believable here because of Teller and Woodley feeding off of each other so magically.
Another performance worth noting is Kyle Chandler as Sutter’s father. In a brief showing, Chandler’s portrayal brings to light the troubled background of Sutter’s life, and if this performance had been done wrong, I feel it would have negatively affected the film. Luckily for all, Chandler was startlingly good as the alcoholic Tommy Keely, and his role holds the story together well. The Spectacular Now is rated R for alcohol use, language, and some sexuality – all involving teens.
The Spectacular Now trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XDTBLSkUmYk
Academy Award nominations for The Spectacular Now:
Previous movies on the countdown of the Top 15 Films of the Year:
10. Captain Phillips
13. Fruitvale Station
14. The Place Beyond the Pines
15. Dallas Buyers Club