One of this summer's best movies, The Spectacular Now, was filled with characters full of unique flaws. The screenplay, written by the same people who brought us 500 Days of Summer, came with high expectations and contained a rare beauty that is difficult to create onscreen. I left the theatre impressed with the artistically fresh and untainted romance, adapted from Tim Tharp's novel, which was so real, I almost felt like I was learning a story that only a friend would have privilege to know. This story centers on the life of Miles Teller, who embodied an unforgettable personality and charm. Miles Teller (well-known from his role as Willard in the new remake of Footloose) embraced his role as the fearless Sutter Keely. The other lead, Shailene Woodley, left her well-known role in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, and became the quiet, but driven Aimee Finecky.
The Spectacular Now deals with something deeper than the clichéd "coming of age" and "first love" movie themes. What the characters portray are lives that have been laden with loss, and their stories intertwine during a time when they have an opportunity to move past their history. In fact, their relationship was clearly a time for growth in both characters. The storyline was poetic in the way that many of the subplots in this story could be taken at face value and looked at through a kaleidoscope of differing perspectives. General peer pressure, alcohol abuse, and abandonment were themes that, when combined, led to a spiraling of effects: fear of what's next, fear of moving on, and a particular desire to exist for the "now."
The director, James Ponsoldt, understood that glamour and fancy effects don't make statements in the powerful ways that a difficult message, coupled with raw talent and chemistry between actors tend to. The adolescent mistakes that are made by both characters in the film could be seen as typical twists-and-turns in a "coming-of-age drama", but they were atypical in their emotional appeal. Sutter Keely's claim, that "as long as I [he] can remember, I've never been afraid," seemed to be his life mantra as he sauntered through life enjoying a vortex of alcohol abuse and avoidance of commitment.
To any viewer, this lack of fear would easily translate into Sutter's denial of his problems, and desire for momentary pleasure. It would be all too easy to make assumptions about the results that his destructive tendencies would lead to, but it would be all the more fun to stop assuming, and see for yourself what Sutter discovers after spending so much of his time living in the "spectacular now."