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Overall Rating
4

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Worth A Look100%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

2 reviews, 1 rating


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Spectacular Now, The
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Now Voyagers"
4 stars

"The Spectacular Now" is a pretty good version of the time-honored coming-of-age genre. This may initially sound like a awfully perfunctory form of praise for any film, let alone one that has been receiving rapturous acclaim from virtually everyone else who has encountered. However, what you have to realize is that, for the most part, I have little fondness and less tolerance for most films of this type dating back to the time when I was coming of age myself--hell, I spent my teenage years living in the suburbs of Chicago and I still found most of the venerated output of John Hughes to be smug, self-congratulatory claptrap (the Molly Ringwald scenes in "Sixteen Candles" and the wildly under-appreciated "She's Having a Baby" excluded). Therefore, if one makes enough of an impression for me to concede that it is "pretty good," there is an excellent chance that those with a genuine taste for such things may well consider it to be a masterpiece of the form.

The film stars Miles Teller as Sutter Neely, the kind of glad-handing party guy that everyone remembers from their high school days--the one who might have gone far if he had applied himself to his schoolwork as much as he did to screwing around and who might have been voted "Most Likely To Misunderstand The Point Of The Song 'Glory Days.'" Sutter's basic philosophy in life is that it is infinitely better to simply live in the now than to prepare for what the future has to offer. When his teen-queen girlfriend (Brie Larson) unexpectedly dumps him, it sends him on a bender that ends with him based out on the lawn of shy and withdrawn classmate Aimee (Shailene Woodley).
Despite their differences--her desire to look forward being symbolized by her love of science-fiction--the two hit it off romantically as he loosens her up while she tries to get him to behave a little more responsibly. However, changing a force of personality like Sutter is not as easy as it seems and when a reunion with his long-absent father (Ron Livingston) goes horribly wrong, it kicks off a series of events that could doom the couple and send Sutter back into a permanent tailspin.

Unlike most of the teen-oriented films of late--most of which are broad comedies in which the only desires of the kids are to get laid and/or throw parties of such a raucous nature that Caligula himself might have blushed at their excesses--"The Spectacular Now" is not exactly crammed with incident--there are no artificially contrived situations, no unbelievable love triangles and the story does not conclude at prom--and it is all the better for it. The screenplay does a smart and effective job of observing two reasonably ordinary teenagers as they navigate the perils of romance and sex in ways that will strike most viewers as being frighteningly accurate. (The scene in which the two first make love is exceptionally affecting in the way that it stresses quiet realism over the usual gymnastic-like gyrations.) Unlike most of the teens movies to emerge in the wake of the films of John Hughes, which took the position that every single problem experienced by young people was the result of meanie adults who just don't understand because of their age, "The Spectacular Now" also takes the relatively brave stance of identifying Sutter as the major source of his own problems and suggesting at times that Aimee might indeed be better off without him.

I can't say that I liked "The Spectacular Now" as much as many of my colleagues--although he gives a good performance, I could never quite warm up to Teller or his character and some of the dialogue is a little too glib and on-the-nose for its own good--and try as it might, it never quite transcends the genre in the way that a true classic of the form like Cameron Crowe's "Say Anything" (an obvious thematic inspiration) did so effortlessly. However, it does have two elements going for it that make it worth checking out. The first is the direction by James Ponsoldt, who continues to demonstrate a fine touch for low-key character-driven material that he previously showed in last year's "Smashed." The real reason to see it, however, is the tremendously affecting performance by Shailene Woodley, in her first major role since her breakthrough performance as George Clooney's troubled daughter in "The Descendants," as Aimee. Simply put, this is one of the great performances in teen movie history--other than the fact that she may be just a little too pretty for the part, she hits every single emotional note perfectly and creates a character that will be instantly recognizable to anyone who has ever gone to high school. Put it this way--"The Spectacular Now" may not quite be spectacular as a whole but Shailene Woodley most certainly is and anyone doubting that assessment only needs to see this film in order to confirm it.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=24598&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/09/13 13:19:31
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Sundance Film Festival For more in the 2013 Sundance Film Festival series, click here.
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Independent Film Festival Boston For more in the 2013 Independent Film Festival Boston series, click here.
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Nantucket Film Festival For more in the 2013 Nantucket Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Provincetown International Film Festival For more in the 2013 Provincetown International Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/08/13 PAUL SHORTT SKILFUL COMING-OF-AGE FILM, WITH SOME GREAT PERFORMANCES 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  02-Aug-2013 (R)
  DVD: 14-Jan-2014

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Aug-2013
  DVD: 14-Jan-2014




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