Movie Reviews & Interviews from Washington

‘The Spectacular Now’ Review: Teller and Woodley Star in Unconventional Romance

Every critic has his or her favorite film genre. They might not admit it, but all of us have our preference. Whether its comedy, action, drama, science fiction, horror or even animation, we all get excited for one particular genre over all the others. It might be cliché, but I have to admit my favorite genre has to be romance. Call me a hopeless romantic, but a romantic comedy, romantic drama; a romantic erotic thriller (Basic Instinct, anyone?) just makes me excited to go to the movies!

An Affair to Remember, Say Anything, Sleepless in Seattle and She’s All That all have a special place in my heart and still hold up to this day. The Spectacular Now is one of those films that makes its mark in cinema as one of the most memorable and genuine romantic films of the last 10 years. Director James Ponsoldt (2012’s Smashed) delivers a surprising and lovely film anchored by two young fantastic actors.

Based on the novel by Tim Tharp, The Spectacular Now focuses on Sutter (Miles Teller), a high school senior who has just been recently dumped by his girlfriend (Brie Larson). After a wild night of drinking, Sutter meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley) a fellow senior who he’s never really paid much attention to. At first, Sutter starts hanging out with Aimee to make his ex girlfriend jealous, but eventually he discovers Aimee is unlike anyone he’s ever met before.

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What makes The Spectacular Now so interesting and different from other love stories is our central character, Sutter. You might think from the trailers that this film is all about our young couple in love, but the story is grounded by Sutter and his struggle to overcome both abandonment and alcoholism. Miles Teller, who has had supporting roles in films like 2011’s Footloose and 21 & Over, gets his chance to shine as our lead star in Spectacular Now. Teller is wonderful and gives one of the best performances of 2013. He gives Sutter a personality that makes you want to hit him over the head, yet let him cry on your shoulder at the same time.

Shailene Woodley is equally fantastic and she and Teller have the most wonderful chemistry. I’m a huge Shailene Woodley fan, ever since I saw her in The Descendants, and to see her here as the young, innocent Amy, was completely joyful. The talented actress acts beyond her years in a role that any young starlet would dream of.

Director James Ponsoldt brings his indie film touch to the story and makes the film all the better for it. He glides the audience through the lovely romantic scenes and the intense emotional moments. Pay special attention to the one scene where Teller and Woodley’s characters leave the lake party. It’s almost a five-minute long shot and Ponsoldt doesn’t cut away from our two actors for even a second. Ponsoldt expertly shows the couple’s growing relationship in this one shot and the audience feels like we are witnessing a private moment.

The ending of Spectacular Now is just too good to give away. It will surprise the audience who expects the conventional rom-com movie and satisfy the audience who has read the novel.

The Spectacular Now is a film that defies the conventional romantic plotline and is led by two amazing actors who have a promising career in Tinseltown. I cannot wait for this film to come to Blu-ray!

The Spectacular Now received 4.5/5 stars for the incredible performances by Teller and Woodley and the unforgettable film direction by James Ponsoldt.

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