Movie Review: 'The Spectacular Now' -- 2.5 stars
The Spectacular Now
Directed by James Ponsoldt
Starring Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler
Playing at Lincoln Square and Sunshine Cinema
There's a great performance at the heart of "The Spectacular Now," director James Ponsoldt's sensitive portrait of teenage anguish and dissimulation.
It's delivered by Miles Teller, an up-and-coming actor best known for his work in "Rabbit Hole" and the "Footloose" remake. Here, he turns the cocky, fast-talking high school archetype on its head by imbuing the character of Sutter Keely with a deep reservoir of imposing pain.
This isn't your typical class clown, fated for a reality check at some point down the proverbial road. The film's opening montage, which shows the character as a life-of-the-party type dating the beautiful Cassidy (Brie Larson), ends with him driving drunk and passing out on a random lawn. The day of reckoning is coming much sooner than he thinks.
This movie, bathed in the warm light of the late-afternoon sun, is ostensibly about Sutter's tender romance with Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley), which begins as a rebound from Cassidy and blossoms into something deeper. There are poignant scenes of first kisses, sex and a trip to the prom. Aimee tutors Sutter in geometry and dreamily shares her future plans.
But the characters don't really belong together; it's hard to imagine what Aimee sees in Sutter. Even if the former has never had a boyfriend, or even garnered much attention from the opposite sex, she operates on such a different wavelength than Sutter's live-in-the-now credo that the movie never sells the idea that she'd fall so hard for him.
Woodley plays Aimee as such a steadfast nice girl that the character barely registers apart from her effect on Sutter.
These are fundamentally different people, so this isn't one of those timeless teenage love affairs no matter how hard the filmmaker and his cast try to make it one. The sojourn into John Hughes/Cameron Crowe territory distracts from the film's real story, which centers on a young alcoholic hurtling toward the abyss, in desperate need of an intervention.