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4 1/2 stars: Spectacular Wow!
on August 31, 2013
This is a theatrical review. There may be spoilers.
I think I will have to clear room on my Top Ten list for 2013 for this beautiful little film about two teenagers finding each other. Director James Ponsoldt has affectionately taken Tim Tharp's novel and slowly allows the characters to fall in love while the audience watches. I can't say enough about Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley's strong chemistry together which results in strong performances. Nothing seems like dialog, just extemporaneous words flowing from their mouths.
Sutter (Teller) is a high school senior who is perhaps best known as the class clown. He's funny, easily approachable and fun to be around. He's not a jock nor the smartest kid in school. But he likes school. His biggest problem is that he is drunk most of the time. Sometimes just pleasantly drunk, sometimes very drunk. One day after a party, he shows up on the lawn of a classmate he barely knows. Aimee (Woodley) helps her mom deliver newspapers and her never-seen mom got in late, so Aimee scoops up Sutter and off they go delivering papers at 6 AM.
The casting is perfect for this movie. Both actors (and supporting actors as well) look and talk like high school seniors. Neither are the traditional Hollywood studs and starlets you typically find in movies like this. Shirts do come off, but the setting is right when they do. While I suspect their looks were purposely dressed down, they look...well...average. So does Sutter's ex-girlfriend and his best friend. So does Aimee's friend. How refreshing.
As the shy Aimee and extroverted Sutter spend more time together, bad and good characteristics rub off on each other. Each helps the other confront their mothers. In Sutter's case, his mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh) won't tell him about his father's whereabouts. It's been years since he's heard from him. I expected the bomb to be dropped that dad is in prison or something. You know, more Hollywood. When he eventually gets the phone number from his married sister (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), he and Aimee make the 3 hour drive. Unfortunately dad (Kyle Chandler) is a drunk womanizer, pretty much like his mother suggested.
No matter how old we are, everyone can remember that first love. It never leaves our memory. I can promise that "The Spectacular Now" will give those memories a bit of a jolt. This is an authentic film about young love. Highly recommended.