December 4, 2022
Ithaca, NY


Review: Spectacular film delivers emotional depth

The Spectacular Now

James Ponsoldt

During the transition from adolescence to adulthood, it’s common to feel trapped in a state of stagnation. There is a comfort that accompanies familiarity and an impending weight that comes along with an unknown future. Director James Ponsoldt explores this adolescent phenomenon in “The Spectacular Now.”

“The Spectacular Now” focuses on a pair of high-school teenagers who are essentially stuck in neutral. Sutter Keely, played by Miles Teller, is an 18-year-old lush with a strong animosity toward making plans or any kind of future for himself. After a late night of partying, prompted by a recent breakup with his girlfriend, he meets a girl named Aimee Finicky, played by Shailene Woodley.

The unlikely pair complement each other well. Aimee is a bright girl who shies away from most social scenes but is driven toward her academic future, while Sutter is generally the life of the party who strives to live in the now.

Sutter initially takes a liking to Aimee, telling his friends that he takes pity on her. It’s apparent that Aimee likes Sutter much more than he likes her in the beginning of their relationship. However, as the film progresses, Sutter begins to develop a true affection for Aimee, even though he is still pining for his ex-girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) on the side.

The realistic, flirtatious and awkward banter between Aimee and Sutter is well-thought-out and relatable. The uncomfortable lulls in between their conversation makes for a very realistic teenage interaction. Whether they are discussing the problems they both have with their mothers or contemplating their futures, the way the characters are scripted makes viewers feel like they know Sutter and Aimee personally.

The initial allure of this film, however, goes far beyond the actors’ skills. The cinematography plays another key role in this movie’s magic. There are many hidden messages throughout the film that illustrates a more believable and sentimental reality. Aimee’s room is stuck between a child’s wonder of unicorns and dolls and an adult’s world of books and studies. Sutter’s scars on his face also convey a deeper message of emotional scarring because of having an absent father in his life.

“The Spectacular Now” is cast very well. Sutter wonderfully represents someone who doesn’t see what is right in front of him — he can’t claim or take hold of his life. Aimee is the archetype of a girl who yearns for the future, even when quarrels between her and her mother make it seem like she will never achieve her goal of going to college. Even though these are classic human situations, Ponsoldt’s directing abilities make each encounter feel like it’s unfolding before the viewer’s eyes, instead of it feeling forced or contrite.

This film falls short, however, when it comes to the character development between Sutter and his father. Midway through the story, Sutter decides to meet his father in person, only to find that he is a self-absorbed alcoholic. While there was potential for a resolution here, instead of the dissatisfying goodbye, nothing was resolved or discovered in the father-son relationship.

The ending, however, states the true purpose of this film. Sutter’s last words resonate even after the movie is finished, “The best part about now is that there’s another one tomorrow,” which leaves the viewer with the impression that in order to create a future worth living, one must be present each day.