The Spectacular Now
dir James Ponsoldt
scr Scott Neustadter, Michael Weber
prd Michelle Krumm, Andrew Lauren, Shawn Levy, Tom McNulty
with Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler, Bob Odenkirk, Andre Royo, Masam Holden, Dayo Okeniyi, Kaitlyn Dever, Whitney Christopher King
release US 2.Aug.13, UK Oct.13 lff
13/US 1h35
The Spectacular Now
Young love: Woodley and Teller

larson leigh winstead
london film fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Spectacular Now Credit to these filmmakers for creating an adolescent comedy-drama that feels bracingly raw and honest. And their willingness to go places most movies shy away from gives the actors a chance to create fresh characters who are engaging even when they do stupid teenager things.

Sutter (Teller) is the school's good-time boy, a fast-talker who lives in the moment, charming girls and teachers while never showing even a hint of his crippling self-doubt. After a drunken night out with his on-off girlfriend (Larson), he wakes up on the front lawn of shy classmate Aimee (Woodley). As they get to know each other, Aimee starts to feel love (and lust) for the first time, while Sutter begins to think he can have a positive influence for a change. Even if his first idea is to buy her a hip-flask.

Teller and Woodley create such realistic characters that their lively, funny interaction feels completely improvised. Even when they have a moment of romantic tension or break into a bitter argument, we never hear the voice of an older, wiser screenwriter. On the surface, Sutter is the confident clown, but we can see him longing for a deeper connection. And Aimee is someone who refuses to be put into a stereotypical box, so it's no surprise that he's intrigued.

The film is also an eerily realistic portrayal of how teens approach alcohol and sex, and spins one cliche by making Aimee the one who's into sci-fi graphic novels. But what's most honest is the way both characters have yet to fully understand themselves. As soon-to-be high school graduates, they think they have everything figured out, but Sutter doesn't realise that he's not actually a loser, while Aimee has no idea that the world really is her oyster.

Thankfully this isn't a film about how they help each other discover the truth about themselves. In many ways it isn't a coming-of-age movie at all; this is a story about shattering long-held myths and looking beneath the surface to honestly see the the people around us. And as the title suggests, this is also about finding a balance between living for the moment and plotting a course for the future.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 24.Sep.13 lff

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... The Spectacular Now Still waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall