SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2013
By Don Simpson | January 24, 2013
Director: James Ponsoldt
Writers: Michael H. Weber (screenplay), Scott Neustadter (screenplay), Tim Tharp (novel)
Starring: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Bob Odenkirk, Kaitlyn Dever, Andre Royo, Dayo Okeniyi, Masam Holden, Gary Weeks
Sutter (Miles Teller) is the token “fun guy” of his high school senior class. Whether or not it is his perpetual alcohol-fueled buzz that makes him that way depends on who you ask; but considering that it has been a while since Sutter has been sober, it might be difficult to find someone who can actually speak to that. The problem is there is only so far that being the “fun guy” can get you; even his girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) is ready to move on and find someone whose future spans further than his next swig.
When Cassidy breaks up with him, Sutter commences an alcoholic binge that only a very lucky person could survive. Luckily for Sutter, he is a very lucky guy. The aftermath of one such binge finds him passed out on a random front yard of Aimee’s (Shailene Woodley) paper route. Aimee — one of the class geeks — has flown under Sutter’s radar until this very moment; but, thankful for Aimee’s angelic assistance that morning, Sutter befriends her under the pretense of trying to save her from an overbearing mother. In the course of trying to save her, Sutter introduces Aimee to the joys inside his flask. Aimee starts drinking, next comes their first kiss and then a date to their prom…
Despite its ability to break down the social and class barriers between Aimee and Sutter, we can only assume that alcohol — or Sutter’s immaturity — will eventually come between them. Something horrible seems to be lingering on their horizon, but there is no way of knowing exactly what it is. I found myself mentally preparing for something horrible to happen, because — well — it just seems like one of those films; you know, the kind that requires a horrible tragedy in order to redeem and/or save its protagonist(s). For a few moments, The Spectacular Now goes the way of The Christmas Story, as Sutter is able to glimpse a future version of himself. If Sutter continues down his current path, there is an extremely high probability that he will end up a lot like the failure of a man who is sitting across the table from him; but even this experience is not enough to shake some sense into Sutter.
It is the incredibly powerful final act that really puts the “wow!” into The Spectacular Now. This is a story that could go a million different ways, but this film’s conclusion abides by the same surprisingly high level of realism that commands the rest of the film.
The Spectacular Now serves as an impressive treatise on teen alcoholism and the social pressures found in high school. Certainly more effective than any of those horrendous alcohol and drug-related videos that they show in high schools, The Spectacular Now might actually make teenagers think before taking another drink.
(Be sure to also check out our interview with director James Ponsoldt.)