A hard-partying high school senior's philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical "nice girl."A hard-partying high school senior's philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical "nice girl."A hard-partying high school senior's philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical "nice girl."
As the film unspools, it may subconsciously remind viewers of the imperfect messiness of Cameron Crowe's teen ode "Say Anything" - complete with a Cusack-like performance by Miles Teller.
Teller's Sutter character is smooth, confident, charming, occasionally- unlikable and flawed. It's an accomplished balancing act.
The centerpiece performance is really Shailene Woodley, as Sutter's new girlfriend Aimee. She gives the most natural performance of a teenager on screen in ages. Her unaffected, open assignment elevates every scene she's in.
Both performances are in service of a film that drifts through the senior high students' last weeks before the end of high school, and takes a mutedly-pessimistic approach of the future before our two leads. These two kids are invisibly shackled to their town, in their home life, their pasts. Echoing the crux at the centre of 1989's "Say Anything", Aimee figures an escape plan; Sutter seems to be blindly comfortable in his 'spectacular' now.
Pulling "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" alum Jennifer Jason-Leigh into the film as Sutter's world-worn mother was a nice touch. Her vacant-eyed mother is in keeping with the film's less-glamorous take.
The picture labours a bit too much in over-emphasizing Sutter's crutch, and the mid-film scenes visiting Sutter's estranged father had trouble finding the right tone between character and caricature. The movie doesn't feel any urgency to build to a conclusion, but when it does, it is understated, uneventful - kind of like our two characters, and sort of like real-life, too.
Life is messy, as is "The Spectacular Now". It eschews the studio slickness and over-plotted determination of more polished teenage products. Despite two grounded, award-worthy lead performances, this film seemed a touch sketched and ever-so-slightly inert.
- Aug 21, 2013