“The Spectacular Now” beautifully portrays the struggles of adolescence 

This one had been on my list for a while, and I finally got to it when Ms. Laura Hassan sent me a message asking if I could review it. So, thank you Laura for being my very first request, and here’s a review of The Spectacular Now:

From Dallas Buyers Club and Her to 12 Years A Slave and Philomena, 2013 boasted some great films and admirable performances. This, however, overshadowed some of the more indie flicks that hit the cinema including the coming-of-age high school drama The Spectacular Now.

Starring Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley in leading roles, the film tells the story of senior Sutter Keely’s final few months of high school, as he prepares to close a chapter of his life and open another. It also explores Keely’s personal life after his break-up with sweetheart Cassidy (Brie Larson), and the developments that ensue on both a romantic level and a familial one. 

Without a doubt, the best part of The Spectacular Now is the characters. It is one of the very rare high school movies that feature actresses and actors who look, feel, sound, and act like actual teenagers. The film boasts some of the most authentic and likable characters of the year, which is what primarily hooks the viewer in. There was a certain sort of intimacy between the characters and I. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been there at one point or another, but notwithstanding that, I was completely attached to every single one of them –whether it was the terrified washout in Keely trying to figure life out, the considerate Cassidy trying to grow up too fast, or the humble Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley), Sutter’s love interest, trying to break free from her nest.

Miles Teller has had quite the boost in his career over the past two years, and I can’t stress on how happy that makes me feel. He’s definitely come a long way, and considering one of his early follow-ups to this was the staggering Whiplash, the actor isn’t stopping any time soon.

In The Spectacular Now, he plays Sutter Keely, but in reality, he plays us. He plays me. I don’t know about you, but I was Sutter at one point around the end of high school, and I’m sure you were too. The thing is, it’s terrifying to get out of an environment where we needn’t bear any major responsibility to one where we handle it all. Teller embodies the spirit of what I like to refer to as an in-betweener; s/he who is in the world of colleges, but not yet out of high school. He exemplifies the best and worst qualities of his character and humanizes him to such an extent that what we see ceases to be acting. There is a raw honesty to his character that is beautiful and heart-warming to witness.

As far as authenticity, I don’t think 2013 featured many characters like Aimee Finicky. Shailene Woodley brings the character to life and delivers a great performance in the role. There is a certain sense of realness to her that is rare nowadays. We see all these high school movies every now and then, but no matter how much of a boy/girl-next-door character filmmakers think they’ve got, none come close to Finicky. She’s a goofy nerd who’s into manga and books, dresses like a teen, and doesn’t go to school looking like she just came out of a photoshoot. In some scenes, she looks like she’d just gotten out of bed, and quite frankly, as a college student myself, that is how most of us look. There are things far more important to do and think about during the day than our appearances. Woodley paints a picture of a humble highschooler trying to get through school and make the tough decision of moving on without her family, and how beautiful a picture it is.

Another character I loved was Cassidy, played by Brie Larson. In the beginning, I disliked her a bit, but then I understood her. She’s just a girl trying to be mature and acting like she’s an adult now that she’s out of high school. I think we all went through that at one point or another; being scared of what lay ahead and acting like we had everything under control. And Larson does the character justice.

What was probably my favourite thing about the movie was the sense of comfort it gave me. I felt at home while watching it. There’s a coziness to it that inmediately invites the viewer in, and a lot of that resulted from the mise-en-scene. The film portrays normal people for from normal families living like any other family out there. The use of certain filters also helped with that a lot; with the sense of intimacy.

The setting of the movie was cleverly-picked. The seemingly tiny town helped solidify the coziness of the movie and the smallness of it, for the film is about people in a small town, and presents no grandoise moments that make you think otherwise. In fact, for a movie, the aren’t that many characters in it, which further allows viewers to get attached to those we had –albeit not all of them.

The score of the movie wasn’t memorable enough. It had some nice tunes in there, but a movie like this needed the perfect score to go with it, and I didn’t quite get that from The Spectacular Now.

The script is okay overall. It started out quite cliché, like the beginning of the movie itself, but then turned into something so much more. It had some predictable dialogue in there but eventually took a turn for the unpredictable, for the original. It seemed like it lacked the potential to be remedied initially, but managed to pick itself up from its shaky start to become something to hold on to.

There was one thing that irked me. The drinking. There was so much of it. Bottles here, bottles there, bottles everywhere! I’m aware of the purpose behind it — and you will too when you watch it — but the filmmakers overdid it. Every scene had that stupid cup in it. It was fairly distracting at times.

Overall, this is one of the best coming-of-age high school dramas I’ve seen in a while. It doesn’t try to be something it’s not, and doesn’t try too hard. With a heart-warming story and characters interesting and relatable enough to aspire to befriend, The Spectacular Now is one to remember from 2013.

RATING: 81/100

Image Sources: comingsoon.net, walkerart.org, gointothestory.blcklst.com, youtube.com, craveonline.com, carnivorousstudios.com

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