The Spectacular Now

9 Overall Score
Plot: 9/10
Characters: 9/10
Appeal: 9/10

The authenticity of high school life, dreams, and relationships bleeds through.

Some bland moments in the script lessen the film's poise.

A plethora of high school movies have come out in the past few years. While many of them stole their viewers’ hearts with awkward characters, vulnerable love, and the beauty of adolescence, none of them captured the concept of authenticity too well. That’s where The Spectacular Now is different. Not only is it raw and realistic, but it’s warm and enjoyable — a perfect balance between the highs and lows teenagers face.

The biggest necessity for a high school film is a strong lead, and with Miles Teller, The Spectacular Now found its match. A mix between the cocky party-hard aesthetic of Jonah Hill and the heartwarming confidence of young John Cusack, Teller’s charisma is enthralling. He plays the immensely depthful Sutter, a senior who thinks in the “now” and ignores the “later.” The mix of charming past teenage characters gives Sutter his own identity; he’s determined, yet scared of his future, and outgoing, yet not knowing the consequences of his actions towards others. It isn’t until he meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley) that he begins to have thoughts about his life after high school. He starts looking at his life from multiple perspectives, wondering what he can learn from his father’s absence, why his ex-girlfriend (Brie Larson) needs separation, and most importantly, how his meeting Aimee is different than any relationship he’s had in the past.

The Spectacular Now - Promo 1It may seem like The Spectacular Now really emphasizes the confusion of high school — the “where do I fit in?” question, or, quite possibly, a more sentimentalized view of life. But, unlike The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which takes teenage angst and produces a plot driven by trivial drama and emotions, the happenings in this film feel dense and meaningful. That’s mostly due to the wholly examinative nature of the characters. When Sutter completely realizes the damage he’s done, he discovers a motive to change.

In a way, Aimee wakes Sutter up. She makes him realize that he’s causing pain, and endangering his dreams. He sees failure in his dreams, and he doesn’t want to end up like the hundreds of failures that came before him. Teller’s incredible performance drives home the film’s overall message. Not to mention Woodley’s genuine portrayal of a smart, hard-working, ambitious teenage girl equally accomplishing the task. She’s a mere foil to Sutter, yet the couple meshes exactly how a high school couple should mesh — conversations are a mix of serious and casual comfort, and relationships end up being a means of growth and maturity. Even Scott Pilgrim’s Mary Elizabeth Winstead makes an appearance as Sutter’s business queen sister: the epitome of success in a world of instant gratification and desperation.

The Spectacular Now - Promo 2Written by the 500 Days of Summer dudes, the script could’ve been funnier and the dialogue could’ve been more memorable. However, it’s streamlined in a way as to not sacrifice the authenticity of the film.That’s what The Spectacular Now has going for it. The indie vibe of the movie matches the down-to-earth feel of the characters and the linear plot movement. Despite a lack of matter-of-fact spunk, the film in a mere estimate of the modern adolescent experience. It’s relentless, yet empathetic in the most tender spots.

Perhaps ‘spectacular’ isn’t the best descriptor of The Spectacular Now. In overall effect, the film is quite spectacular. In fact, it’s phenomenal. But it downplays the light quirks of teenage drama and struggle in exchange for raw substance. The characters use each other for support and personal analysis, and the big questions they have truly are big. More than that, they’re real and relatable. This generation may be full of mindlessness (need I even explain?), but The Spectacular Now shows that even the most shallow of “now” followers can feel. The latest teen flick is a tear-inducing experience worth the most emotional of investments.

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Author: Tim Dodderidge View all posts by
I'm a student at the University of Kansas hoping to major in journalism. I love Christopher Nolan films, eating at Taco Bell, and playing indoor soccer. I also like to watch How I Met Your Mother and enjoy writing poetry.

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