The Spectacular Now

One of my very favorite movies is Cameron Crowe’s “Say Anything”, so I was excited to hear that this film was being compared to it. It turns out that the two are actually quite different, though I can see why people draw a link between them.

The central relationship in both movies is a somewhat unlikely romance between a cool, fun loving guy and a geeky, awkward girl, beginning at around the time of the end of high school up until the girl leaves for college, at which point it’s unclear whether the couple will survive.

There’s also the fact that star Miles Teller’s charismatic, easygoing, funny performance as Sutter does remind of a young John Cusack. But that’s about where the similarities end. Sutter is hardly as nice a guy as Lloyd Dobbler was. We cringe a little bit at the way he seems to be playing with Shailene Woodley’s Aimee, in part because he’s apparently still hung up on his ex… Plus he might be a bit of a dick and, as we gradually realize, an alcoholic.

“The Spectacular Now” isn’t afraid to be harsh and to go to some dark places, notably in depicting Sutter’s difficult rapport with his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and his attempt to reconnect with his father (Kyle Chandler).

I was really moved by all of this and I thoroughly enjoyed the many shades Teller gives his character. Woodley is great as well as the slightly naive Aimee, and the two have real chemistry together.

Director James Ponsoldt keeps their scenes feeling very natural and he shows a keen skill at maintaining a consistent tone, somewhere between comedy and drama. “(500) Days of Summer” screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, working from the book by Tim Tharp, also have to be praised for presenting such well-rounded characters and crafting a plot that flows smoothly without being too predictable.

Altogether, “The Spectacular Now” is a truly wonderful picture.