All too often, we are told that there is no better time than the present. The mindless “You Only Live Once (YOLO)” mentality and need for instant gratification have brought our society to the brink of unbridled impatience. If I can’t have something right here, right now, it’s obviously not worth having and certainly not worth waiting for.
But what about the future? What happened to making plans and setting goals? If we lose sight of our potential to succeed, our dreams become nothing more than childhood fantasies, useless ideas that don’t warrant taking any time away from the now.
James Ponsoldt’s “The Spectacular Now” addresses this through the eyes of two high school seniors, but in a way that is universally understandable. With a stellar cast and a smart script, this coming-of-age tale is a true work of art that both tugs on the heartstrings and restores faith in the future.
With a beer in one hand and sexy girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) in the other, Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) is the life of every party. He lives without a care in the world and makes sure everyone knows it—even the admissions counselors reading his college applications.
After Cassidy unexpectedly breaks up with him, Sutter goes on a drinking spree and wakes up the next morning in the middle of someone’s front lawn. That someone, he discovers, is Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley), a sweet, quiet girl who tries her hardest to avoid the spotlight. As their unlikely friendship blossoms into romance, Sutter is faced with a life-changing decision: does he grow up and plan for the future, or keep living in his “spectacular now?”
In Scott Neustadter’s and Michael H. Weber’s relatable script, it’s a question not just for Sutter, but for everyone. The imperfections in Sutter and Aimee’s relationship (Sutter’s longing for Cassidy, Aimee’s naïveté) give the story depth and authenticity, while the high school dialogue is both smart and believable: seemingly petty for adults, but deep and meaningful for starry-eyed teenagers.
Despite Teller and Woodley’s relative youth (they’re 26 and 21 respectively), they imbue their characters’ romance with the maturity and gravity of seasoned professionals and may in fact turn in two of the best performances of the year.
While the rest of the cast is solid, its primary function is to keep the focus on Teller and Woodley. Kyle Chandler is convincing as Sutter’s deadbeat, alcoholic dad – who gives Sutter an insight into his own growing alcohol addiction – but never overshadows the leads. Chandler is on screen for just a short time, but his performance helps to flesh out Sutter’s character and make him more of a sympathetic protagonist.
From its opening scene to its emotional finale, “The Spectacular Now” is touching in its sweet simplicity. Honest and moving, it provides a universal lesson in growing up: There’s nothing wrong with living in the now, but only if it can lead to a spectacular tomorrow.
**** ½ out of five