The Spectacular Now Review: A Thought-Provoking and Wholly-Satisfying High School Movie

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Movies like this don’t come around very often. Sure, sure, it’s a summer coming of age indie, which could fill a category on Netflix as well as many other genres. But there hasn’t been a film as rewarding and emotionally rich as The Spectacular Now this whole year.

We follow Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a popular high school student on the cusp of graduation. He fails to prepare for the future, choosing to party in the now. He meets Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley) shortly after being dumped, taking a cautious liking to her. Before long, they are dating and dealing with the normal issues 18 year olds deal with.

What’s so spectacular about this film though is how real it feels. The dialogue and chemistry is authentic. Teller and Woodley sizzle on screen, creating unique yet entirely relatable people. The detail and subtleties within both the script and the performances put you as a fly on the wall to one of the most true-to-life films in the last few years.

The shy smile Aimee gives Sutter as the kids fall for each other will remind you of the times you did the same thing. Despite the beauty of the relationship unfolding, the film smartly never heads into Nicholas Sparks territory. The chances of their romance actually working are never so easily defined. Sutter and Aimee compliment each other, yet are still so incredibly naive.

They go through their final year of high school combatting families that are just as lost as they are (with a particularly raw performance coming from Kyle Chandler, who plays Sutter’s estranged father).

But the title is deceiving, in the best way possible. Lot’s a films like this show an awkward teenager coming out of shell by a love-interest showing him how to “live in the moment”. The Spectacular Now flips that on its head so beautifully and effectively that you’ll walk out of the theater re-evaluating your own life and choices. Yes, it really is that powerful.

If you can’t tell, I really love this film. Every emotion hit hard. Every feeling was felt. I left feeling both young and old, juvenile and mature, sad and uplifted. The Spectacular Now is hardly your conventional indie romance. It’s a meditation on how we express our emotions and the potential pitfalls they can drop us in. But most of all, it’s beautiful and effective filmmaking. Grade: A

By Matt Dougherty

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