Monday, February 3, 2014

Film Review: The Spectacular Now

"The Spectacular Now"  *** (out of ****)

"The Spectacular Now" (2013) takes place at that special moment in our life. That moment when we are told we are too young, children, yet are expected to know exactly what we are suppose to do with the rest of our lives. A young man is about to graduate high school, but, he doesn't have a clue where life will lead him. He doesn't have a plan. He doesn't want to become an "adult" because all of the adults he sees around him, aren't happy. Better to lead the carefree life of a child then grow up, become an adult and accept responsibility.

But that's not how life works. Eventually we all have to grow up. We have to accept responsibility. We have to decide on a college and a major. We are expected to know exactly what we want to do for the rest of our lives. We feel the whole world is open to us. The possibilities are endless. We are trailblazers. We will set the world on fire. I won't mention what happens next. I may have some young readers and don't want to crush their spirits.

It is a confusing time to be in and our hero, Sutter (Miles Teller) is at a crossroad. All of his friends are thinking ahead, applying to colleges, settling into relationships, thinking about the future. But Sutter believes he has all he could want out of life. He has a girlfriend, a car, a job as a salesmen in a men's clothing store and he is popular at school. Could life get any better? Sutter's philosophy is live in the moment. That "spectacular now", the present.

Though life has other plans for him. His girlfriend, Cassidy (Brie Larson) breaks up with him when she believes, mistakenly, that he cheated on her. Soon he meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley), a fellow student, who Sutter never noticed before. She isn't quite as popular as he is and doesn't hang out with the "cool kids". Sutter thinks he could "help her". Make her loosen up. You see, Aimee takes responsibility for her life. She is applying to colleges, helps her mom with her paper route (yes you read that correctly) and is a good student.

Sutter though seems to be using Aimee has a rebound. He says he has no interest in her. He wants to get back with Cassidy, who is now dating Marcus (Dayo Okeniyi). Better letting go of an ex is hard to do. Letting her go means moving on with your life. Things aren't as they used to be. You must make a new chapter in your life. Preciously what Sutter wants to avoid.

"The Spectacular Now" goes into some deeper areas involving family strife and becomes a sweet love story. Aimee has never had a boyfriend before. She has never slept with anyone. All of this is new to her. She develops strong feelings for Sutter and slowly Sutter realizes he has found a place in his heart for her.

Initially I wasn't really in the mood to see this movie when I did. I have recently stopped dating someone and the idea of seeing a movie celebrating love, showing two people coming together, wasn't exactly what I needed to see at that moment. Yet, I found myself involved in the story. It works.

The best thing about the movie is the two leads. I have never seen Miles Teller before, and while I felt he was miscasted. He is suppose to play a popular, good looking guy, who can get the pretty girl, he has a natural presence on-screen. Shailene Woodley, who really impressed me in Alexander Payne's "The Descendants" (2011), once again shines. The both of them make us believe they are these characters. There is plenty of chemistry between them.

"The Spectacular Now" isn't quite as romantic as "A Walk to Remember" (2002) with Mandy Moore, as far as teen love stories go. And it didn't really make me relive my first love experience and my early dating years the way "Summer of '42" (1971) did. But, "The Spectacular Now" is a well-told story with two very good performances. It is sweet and has a definite soft-spot.

It is not a great romance but it tackles some serious issues. More than the love story it is a story about growing up. Those are the moments which I found most interesting. It gets a lot of those moments right. That is what makes "The Spectacular Now" worth seeing.