SPECTACULAR NOW, THE
Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), high school senior is the self-proclaimed life of the party - unexpectedly falls in love with the school's 'nice girl' Aimee Fineky (Shailene Woodley). Sutter lives in and for the now, unlike his ex, Cassidy (Brio Larson), who dreams of her future. Sutter is trying to ignore his family demons and resisting positive feelings towards anyone - until forced to examine his life.
Review by Louise Keller:
The present, the future and what lies in between form the defining journey for the film's protagonist, whose notion of living for the moment becomes sidetracked by a girl who has a dream, the ex who wants more than a moment and a father who dreams of butterscotch sunsets. There are many clues about the learning curve that Sutter (Miles Teller) is about to experience, none more pointed than Aimee (Shailene Woodley), the film's catalyst, who is everything Sutter is not. Adapted from Tim Tharp's novel, director James Ponsoldt crafts the story with great care, allowing us to glimpse inside the mind of a daredevil extravert bad-boy who strives for fun as a way of shielding his heart from life's real issues.
Responsibility, belonging, commitment and acceptance are the themes of this delicate yet emotionally potent film whose climatic moment comes shortly after Sutter symbolically drives past a pub called Hell's Place.
The carefree nature of Sutter's life is what strikes us first - he is the life of every party, painting the town red in an inebriated state with his sexy girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson). When Aimee (Woodley) finds Sutter sprawled on a strange front lawn at 6am as she embarks on a paper run, she is clearly not the kind of girl with whom Sutter usually interacts. She is the epitome of a sincere, honest and genuinely nice girl. The relationship starts as a rebound following Sutter's break-up with Cassidy - and develops slowly. While Sutter is simply treading water with Aimee, for her, their time together is something special.
The real point of connection between the two characters is the courage they are able to give each other about emotionally closed sections of their lives. For Aimee, it is having the strength to tell her mother (Whitney Goin) about her University plans; for Sutter, it is dealing with the taboo issue about his absent father about whom he knows little and who he has idolised.
The heart of the story takes place during the road trip in which Sutter and Aimee meet Sutter's father Tommy (Kyle Chandler). The revelations are like bullets that pierce Sutter's armour; his usual controlled state of the uncontrollable shatters into vulnerability and self-loathing.
Woodley is especially good as the selfless girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, while Teller aptly embodies the underachiever who is forced to step up to responsibility. Their scenes together work like a treat, beginning with the superficial and developing into the meaningful. Chandler makes an indelible impression as Sutter's father, encapsulating so much in very little time.
Economical storytelling allows the protagonist's emotional journey to peak just at the right time, exposing far more than we could have imagined at the film's beginning. We may have seen different versions of this coming of age story but there is something fresh and enticing about this one. Today and tomorrow - what a difference a day makes!
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
I haven't read Tim Tharp's novel so I can't tell how authentically the story and characters are brought across to the screen, but even if they are, I probably won't read the book. The high school romance and coming of age genre has been visited so often on screen - with varying degrees of success - that a world weary reviewer such as yours truly finds it laborious. Unless of course the film has the snap and crackle of invention, or seductive wit and charm, or great, observant writing. So, as you can guess, this film doesn't work for me.
The first half is a rather dull affair, with Sutter's love of partying demonstrated (quite briefly) under the opening credits before we smooch around rather aimlessly with him and Aimee (Shailene Woodley). He doesn't come across as a likeable 18 year old, and he struggles to make up for that poor beginning. Miles Teller plays him with a range of attitudes and he does a fair job, but he's neither wild enough to be the school 'gangsta' nor appealing enough to be a young romantic lead. It's not his fault: he has little to work with.
Shailene Woodley is full of natural warmth and gives Aimee an endearing vulnerability; but what her character connects with is her sincerity, simply oozing off the screen. Jennifer Jason Leigh has a muted presence for all but her final scene as Sutter's mother, and Kyle Chandler impresses in his brief scenes as Sutter's father. Nothing wrong with the performances, it's the writing and directing that fail to deliver. If the first half is dull, the second half feels largely confected as we are led from the budding romance to the darkness of absent fathers and dysfunctional relationships just so that there may be some drama to work with. It doesn't quite ring true.
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SPECTACULAR NOW, THE (M)
CAST: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Kyle Chandler, Brie Larson, Masam Holden, Dayo Okeniyi, Jennifer Jason Lee
PRODUCER: Michelle, Krumm, Andrew Lauren, Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty,
DIRECTOR: James Ponsoldt
SCRIPT: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber (novel by Tim Tharp)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Jess Hall
EDITOR: Darrin Navarro
MUSIC: Rod Simonsen
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Linda Sena
RUNNING TIME: 95 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Walt Disney
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 5, 2013