The Spectacular Now (Blu-ray + Digital HD)
Blu-ray + Digital
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Based on the beloved book by Tim Tharp, THE SPECTACULAR NOW is the story of Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a high school senior and self-proclaimed "life of the party," who unexpectedly falls in love with "nice girl" Aimee Fineky (Shailene Woodley). While Aimee dreams of the future, Sutter lives in the now, and yet somehow, they're drawn together. What starts as an unlikely romance becomes a sharp- eyed, straight-up snapshot of the heady confusion and haunting passion of youth. Costarring Brie Larson, Kyle Chandler and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
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Top Customer Reviews
What a surprise -- a movie about real teenagers.
Not sure if it works as well without the talented young lead actors, Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley. Of course, "Divergent" has apparently made both of them stars, especially Ms. Woodley. I've not seen that film, but I doubt their work there is better than what they do here, which, in certain moments like before they make love for the first time, is painfully real. Brings back so many memories for this aging bad boy who had his fair share of romances with nice girls. The writers and director -- all male, basing their work on a novel by a male writer -- decided to go for total honesty, dredging up memories of their assorted first loves. The realism thus engendered in the dialogue helps the young actors along, who speak their lines as if they're the first things out of their mouths rather than words from a script. All in all, the movie captures the intense joy and pain of adolescent romance without resorting to overhyped dramatic situations.
Teller plays Sutter, a popular high school senior who is, in a rather unlikely manner, generous in his popularity, open to all friendships, including ones with hot girls, lanky nerds, and ponytailed ingenues like Woodley. He doesn't even resent the young man who steals his first girlfriend -- in fact, Teller gives the guy some sound love-life advice, because, you know, bros. As I said, the performances, rather than the characters per se, make this believable. While Teller's character is clearly a novelist's construct, Woodley's "Aimee" surprisingly comes across as the more genuine character. She is just emerging from the chrysalis of childhood, trembling around all over the place like a newborn colt, and, quite inevitably, falling hard for the first guy who speaks to her in a friendly way. The fascination with the "awesome" manga super-heroines and such falls by the wayside as soon as Teller introduces her to his flask and gives her her first kiss. Before long, she drapes herself around her beau like ivy, making plans for the future that include shacking up in Philadelphia while she matriculates. ("Sounds great," Teller says uncertainly.) Woodley delivers a touching performance; I'm predicting major stardom that will go beyond the current cinematic adaptation of the latest YA dystopian fiction.
But this is Teller's show. He conveys to perfection an easy-going youth on the surface who is meanwhile seething with self-doubt, resentment over a missing father, and an underlying sense of doom. He bops around the high school campus and his job selling menswear carrying a flask in his pocket and his convenience-store cups of spiked soda always in-hand, and we can't help but worry about him. (It helps that Teller seems like such a likable kid.) Certain young people start anesthetizing themselves from the pain of life with a constant supply of booze even before they've lived long enough to become proper alcoholics, and other young people take it upon themselves to try to save these budding alcoholics by offering the steadiness and responsibility of a sexual relationship. (It's usually the females who try to do the saving, but sometimes it's the other way around.) And, as in all codependent relationships, each partner is getting something from the other: in his case, a nonjudgmental lover who adores him, and in her case, some "boyfriend experience" to be stored up for more mature encounters later in life. And indeed -- remember, I warned about spoilers -- the last shot of the film shows us a young woman who has moved quite beyond Teller after just a few short months of separation, regardless of whether or not Teller has matured or quit drinking. The guarded smile by Woodley is masterful. I wonder if this ending is actually preferable to the book's ending, which apparently has Sutter drunk in a bar congratulating himself on setting his girlfriend free because he wasn't good enough for her. The screenwriters set up a happy ending as a possible alternative, only to make it even more complicated and, in my view, far better than what novelist Tim Tharp came up with.
4 stars out of 5. The fifth star is withheld because the story veers dangerously close to Nicholas Sparks territory (cf. "A Walk to Remember") and because the writers have Teller say unrealistic, screenwriterish things to teachers and employers. But, still, this one is definitely a cut above.
Well acted and heartfelt, this is a good movie and lesson.