The Spectacular Now directed by James Ponsoldt, allows for an unfiltered look and portrayal of teenage life. Most other films of this genre usually hold back in how they show the life of teenagers. What this film does is show the tough side of being a high school student. In the incredible way that the actors performances. Don’t think of this film as just another young adult movie, it is more than that as it deals with many aspects of growing up and dysfunctional family life.
The main character of Sutter is not unlike most other similar characters. What sets him apart, not necessarily in a good way is that he has flaws and from the beginning, hides behind them. Sutter uses his addiction to alcohol to numb the pain and forget how dull his life is. Miles Teller really does a great job of playing this character and make you feel for him, hoping that he will make a complete 180, becoming a new and better person.
Once Aimee, played by Shailene Woodley enters his life, things look to be going up for him. Both Sutter and Aimee are broke people looking for escapes and changes in their lives. Whether these changes are positive or not, they are changes nonetheless. While Sutter is negatively flawed, Aimee is different in the sense that she is very innocent and pure, not having had many of the typical high school / teenage experiences. The lives of these two characters are similar in that they both come from families that are run by single mothers. This has impacted both of them in different but, negative ways. Aimee goes about her life letting her mother control most every aspect, even going so far as to forbid her from going to college, which shows the problems her mother has. Sutter on the other hand, takes his family problems of not having his father in his life and tries to ignore and forget them by using his dependence on alcohol.
Sutter meets Aimee at a point in both of their lives when they need someone to help make them change. It starts out with him having more influence over her as he gets her on the path of drinking hard liquor, but she also is trying to make sure he does not become any worse off than he already is. She is able to convince him that to have the life he wants and needs, he needs to stand up to his mother.
By the end the characters of Aimee and Sutter have changed and not only stood up to their parents, but are able to turn a new leaf thanks in large part by having met each other. Even though these two make huge impacts on the lives of one another, there are still flaws that they posses that were never really able to change. It is just a part of who they really are and much deeper than surface level which the actors do a good job of being able to convey through their performances.
Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley do a great job of putting life into these characters and making you root for them to make positive changes and see their lives turn upward. This really shows as these two young actors were awarded a Special Jury Prize for Dramatic Acting at this years Sundance film festival. Given the subject matter, the performances by the supporting actors really show just how they help fill out and expand the main characters. These smaller but not insignificant roles are played by the likes of Kyle Chandler, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and Bob Odenkirk.
This is one of those movies that does a spectacular job at portraying the broken lives of teenagers, but it is done in a way that comes across as feeling real making the viewer care and hope for them to change. The Spectacular Now is a rare film that is not only powerful in its themes and tone, but is carried by the performances of the young lead actors, which will hopefully foreshadow the rest of their acting careers.