The Spectacular Now
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The Spectacular Now

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‘Spectacular Now’ combines a pair of to the most overused genres film; the romantic comedy in the coming-of-age story, which might bode ill for many film aficionados, at least based on this high concept treatment. With that stated it is quite fortunate that there was such an overwhelming amount of talent associated with the production and execution of this film that the two mundane categories can combine incredible amount of synergy. I had heard good things about this film, but have to admit that reading the description did result in a degree of trepidation. But then, with the due diligence required of a critic, I sat down to watch the film. After watching well over 10,000 movies in my lifetime, and I’m still elated when I come across one that defies expectations with a superb quality and storytelling. With a budget of only $2.5 million, this movie stances the epitome of independent cinema and a strong example of why it is so necessary to make sure film is more than a means of entertainment but can be transcended into artistic expression at its finest. Talent certainly abounds, woven throughout every aspect of this production, the leading lady is especially noteworthy; Shailene Woodley. With a big break happening on an ABC family series, one she moves into movies of career exploded in her talents went supernova. Unlike the vast majority of very attractive young actresses, Ms. Woodley has expertly avoided the pitfall of being typecast. She has undertaken a broad gamut of characters ranging from the vulnerable teen action hero and a high octane science-fiction movie. One thing she has left about in several interviews is thus far, most of the characters lose their virginity somewhere in the story. The fact that she can joke about this demonstrates a resiliency that when combined with our innate talent will take a very far.

In every high school, there were numerous archetypes inevitably fill the matter where or when the story is set. For Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), he maintains the position at the apex of his high school hierarchy; handsome, self-confident, endowed with charisma. He is entering what should be the absolutely best year of his life, senior year. Even manages something most teens in his position fall short on. The imbalances love the partying with his friends, but holding down a part-time job at a man’s clothing store. This idyllic life does have a floor so common to young people his age not fully appreciated at this young age, he has absolutely no idea of what to do with his future. With such a seemingly perfect life with everything pretty much coming to him easily, Sutter as one thing looming in his future, is already an alcoholic. When addiction to alcohol. This combined with the lack of ambition, especially at such an early age, the chances of a bleak future are exceptionally hard. It should have been a warning sign to Sutter of what the future holds with his girlfriend, Cassidy (Brie Larson), fed up with his constant drunkenness breaks up with him. Cassidy (Brie Larson) responds and the only way he knows, he goes off on a bender. Passing out on a stranger’s lawn, come morning his drunken stupor is disturbed by a teenage girl, Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley). She is unlike any girl he has ever met, particularly those in his heavy partying clique. She is very pretty and devoid of the necessity to augment her looks with makeup. While most of the girls that Sutter knows confined their reading to entertainment magazines and tabloids, Aimee is prone to curl up with a science-fiction novel in her free time. Suffers constant inebriation has had an effect on his grades so he asks Aimee for help in geometry. Understandably young man has ulterior motives of trying to contrive a reason to continue meeting with her.

At this point of the story incredible imagination behind it begins to shine through. In a typical romantic comedy, the leading young man is typically quite a catch, albeit one that may have to have some rough edges smoothed. Sutter is a mess. The pervasive alcoholism is more than enough to offset the charming façade that he is perfected over the years. When Cassidy invites him to have a drink with her, he immediately agrees only to refocus his attentions back to Aimee once Cassidy’s new boyfriend, Marcus (Dayo Okeniyi), shows up. Such behavior falls squarely under the definition of ‘cad’, and in an average film of this type, you would expect his growing love for the nice girl to give him the strength to sober up. Instead, Sutter introduces the very reserved Aimee to alcohol. I did find this a sufficient break them both the rom-com and coming-of-age tale to realize there is a unique this this film that is astounding. One archetype that is held to his the severe mother (Whitney Goin), who’s controlling nature, is a significant contributor to space Aimee’s reserve persona. Sutter’s influence emboldens the young woman defiantly stand up to her mother. This serves to culminate the emotional bond that has been growing and the two kiss.

Another aspect that prevented this movie from continuing down a mundane path in achieving something special is how another layer of characters is introduced. Aimee’s best friend, Krystal (Kaitlyn Dever), has noticed the changes since she began hanging out with Sutter, admonishing her to distance itself from this bad influence, also directly confronting Sutter telling him point blank to stop treating her so badly. Sutter does react much better than a man in this situation would in a Lifetime movie any invites Aimee to have dinner with him and his estranged sister, Holly (Mary Elizabeth Winstead). Holly does open up emotionally discussing the death of their father and how she is always dreamt of being in a solid marriage. This serves as a catalyst between Sutter and Aimee deepening their relationship resulting in them becoming sexually involved. Yes, this is another in a series of on-screen deflowering for Ms. Woodley. Considering this is set in a high school senior year when the culminating event has to be the prom. Just as you think everything is leading to a climactic event at the dance, the audiences given the rather unexpected shocking moment.

The screenplay for this movie was a cooperative effort between Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. Both of the John men have worked together previously, most notably on ‘(500) Days of Summer’ in the television series space, ‘Friends with Benefits’. This does afford them credentials in offbeat romantic comedies, but the quiet intensity of the character arcs here indicates they have reached a new level of maturity in their craft. This is the sophomore film director James Ponsoldt. Prior to this he helmed an independent film that was an intriguing character study of a young woman battling alcoholism. The star that film appears here, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whose mainstream film recognition, was portraying the grown-up daughter of John McClane in the last two films of the ‘Die Hard’ franchise. Of performance in Mr. Ponsoldt’s previous offering, ‘Smashed’. That film not only demonstrates the depth of Ms. Winstead abilities, but provides insight into how this filmmaker has been carefully nurturing his style. This accumulation of talent provides an ideal showcase for yet another incredible performance by Ms. Woodley. When I first watched her on television, I thought she was rather wooden, but I realize now that was more due to the context of the series and the part she was taking on. Since then, every movie represents a quantum leap in abilities. Much of the credit of this young woman and her management, she has been taking on, as mentioned above, a variety of different characters. She has been accumulating a repertoire of the different facets of humanity, enabling her to create fully formed and readily believable human beings. This is the type of movie where the story is just the scaffold instructed solely to tie together a series of amazing performances. It examines the core of these characters and how their interaction affects each of them, and not always in a positive manner.

bulletDeleted Scenes
bulletThen To Now: Making The Spectacular Now
bulletInception: Defying Hollywood
bulletCast: Finding The Voice
bulletAesthetic: Authenticity Counts
bulletReal: Bringing It All To Life
bulletAudio Commentary With Director James Ponsoldt

Posted 01/24/2015

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