Living in the moment is great, when you’ve gotten somewhere in life. When you’re a senior in high school who hasn’t accomplished much of anything, let alone get into a college, living in the “now” is a problem. This problem is the subject of The Spectacular Now, a pretty good adaptation of a novel that’s received a number of accolades.
Miles Teller plays “Sutter” who is a good looking kid known mostly for being a serious partier. He doesn’t really belong to any particular clique at his school. He’s fun to be with, makes people laugh and has no plans for the future. The only positive thing in his life is that he has a job at a men’s clothing store, and seems to have an altruistic streak in him. He hasn’t seen his father in years and his mother (Jennifer Jason-Leigh in a small, but strong turn) refuses to give Sutter his father’s phone number.
His girlfriend “Cassidy” is portrayed by Brie Larson and their relationship is not good. Cassidy is going to college and she can’t understand why Sutter isn’t taking the subject of college and his future in general more seriously. They break up.
When he meets Shailene Woodley’s “Aimee”, who is an odd duck herself, it wasn’t with any romantic intentions or plans to use her as a rebound romance. She’s smart, hides her beauty and finds herself attracted to Sutter. She’s such the “good girl” that she has assumed her mother’s job as newspaper delivery person in the mornings. She’s very different from Sutter in that her future is planned out and she is bound to be successful. Sutter introduces Aimee to alcohol and the rest of his foibles and they only make him more endearing in her eyes. Sutter is determined to find his father one way or another and he will never stop living in the “now” until he does. It’s clear that Sutter doesn’t feel as strongly toward Aimee as she does toward him and it is very easy to find yourself rooting for her to not get hurt.
The bad boy and the good girl has been done to death and yet it works here. There’s an innocence about Woodley’s Aimee that makes her intelligence and common sense obvious. She may be naïve and inexperienced when it comes to love and relationships and yet she knows what she wants. Teller’s Sutter is someone that most of his peers may laugh at, but any of them would give him a ride home. The leads in this film show talent and maturity far beyond their actual ages.
James Ponsoldt proved his directing chops with last year’s excellent Smashed and this film continues to demonstrate that he works well with films involving “difficult” interpersonal relationships involving teens and/or young adults.