johnlink ranks THE SPECTACULAR NOW (2013)

I don’t watch enough character driven stuff anymore. My movie watching has been so geared towards distraction and entertainment that the titles gracing these pages has become a seeming parade of horror, thriller, sic-fi, action, etc. I’m not sure how it has become that, but every so often you see a really well made movie which, unexpectedly, reminds you of why you love movies. THE SPECTACULAR NOW was that for me last night.


I watched THE SPECTACULAR NOW (2013) on 12.16.14. It was my first viewing of the film.

Really had no idea what this movie was going in. The first five minutes play like this is going to be a somewhat more personal AMERICAN PIE; a movie about hooking up and partying and craziness. Then the title card hits, and the movie settles right down. THE SPECTACULAR NOW is about recently dumped Sutter (Miles Teller). He’s a high school senior, a heavy drinker, and a dude who just sort of floats through the life. He’s the worst sort of example of someone who ‘lives in the moment’, using that mantra to dismiss responsibility or attachment. He’s actually a pretty good guy, despite that, he uses his humor to disarm people and he is very good at gently getting what he wants out of a situation while never giving away his motives.

He meets ‘ordinary’ Aimee (Shailene Woodley). She’s a smart kid, loyal to her mom, less experienced than Sutter. He teaches her how to drink, but also how to have fun. She teaches him how to love, even if that is an imperfect and movie-long journey.

Nothing particularly noteworthy happens through most of this film. There is one huge surprise moment, and a whole bunch of smaller more predictable moments. Somehow, that is a good thing. To watch this movie is to watch a very realistic depiction of teenagers, some who think they are invincible, moving through life in a way which is destined to have consequences. The movie’s big question is wether or not Sutter can learn to be a whole person. He has Daddy issues, and we learn why when we meet his Daddy (Kyle Chandler). He is trying to be more than his father, even as he knows how similar they are.

THE SPECTACULAR NOW is one of the best realistic interpretations of white-suburban teenage life on film. The characters drink casually, are sexually active, and are unintentionally self-destructive. They hurt each other on purpose as a defense mechanism, and then make up quickly. They are smart but sometimes do dumb things. They are aware of their problems even if they can’t always control them or talk about them productively. They are sometimes awkward, sometimes brilliant, and always learning. This is an R Rated film filled with humor, heart, and honesty. It’s the sort of thing that should be allowed to play in high schools, but is far too close to home to ever be allowed to. It treats sex too close to the way teenagers really feel about it. Further, it doesn’t portray drinking as something which will inevitably lead to death, this isn’t an after school special, but rather portrays it as a symptom of a guy masking his pain through an altered and less than sober state of mind. It doesn’t celebrate living life as a buzz, but it accepts it as something that is realistically happening with kids.

I really didn’t start this movie expecting to be moved. I thought I was watching a teen comedy/romantic comedy from my youth: something in between the unrealistic craziness of CAN’T HARDLY WAIT and a story which revels in the sappy like THE NOTEBOOK. Instead, this movie delivered a wonderfully acted story of two people learning how to become better versions of themselves. The comedy is there, but it is real. The themes are present, but they are messy. The script is so smart, and is not afraid to let actions show the lies in words without having to point to the contrasting bits with a big neon sign. The more I think about this movie, the more I respect it and the more I like it.




FINAL SCORE: 8.5 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on December 17, 2014.

2 Responses to “johnlink ranks THE SPECTACULAR NOW (2013)”

  1. A sweet and tender movie. But also a very smart one that tells teens to at least accept failure into their lives as it can sometimes be a way of life. It may sound harsh, but it’s as brutally honest as you could get. Good review John.

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