Sunday, 5 January 2014

Review - The Spectacular Now

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     Poignant, charming and very much real. The Spectacular Now is a high school story which carefully avoids the clichés and stereotypes too often found in teen movies. It is impossible to put any of the characters into the typical high school groups, and their difficulties are far greater issues than simply trying to become popular. This film is a refreshing dose of reality, in a genre that often feels artificial and untrue.

     While this film may initially be thought of as a romance, and indeed this storyline is crucial, the real story is Sutter’s (Miles Teller) personal growth. Afraid of growing up and having to take life seriously, the appearance of Aimee (Shailene Woodley) kick-starts a series of changes for him. At first, it may seem as though Aimee is the one who will change, as Sutter shows her what a relationship can be. Aimee is in love for the first time, and is consumed by it, as every girl is. However, she is not the typical nice girl she first appears to be, and Woodley portrays all her facets and complexities in such a way that she becomes an entirely realistic and believable character. However, Sutter’s transformation is far deeper and more difficult, as he must overcome his fears of life changing and letting himself care for people. He must face harsh truths about his own family, and his struggle to deal with these facts is emotional and moving. Teller expresses every emotion his character experiences, from reckless abandon to complete hopelessness, with skill and credibility.

     At first, there is the vague sense that Sutter may just be screwing with Aimee, rebounding from his recent breakup, but Teller and Woodley’s chemistry is so strong and believable, these concerns don’t last for long. Their relationship seems delicate and fragile, as is to be expected between people so young. As a realist when it comes to love, I frequently find relationships in films to be melodramatics and unrealistic, but the intensity of this one works, as young lovers do fall fast and hard. In the real world, many high school relationships don’t last forever, but Sutter and Aimee have such a profound effect on each other’s lives, you can’t help but hope theirs does.

     While the acting is excellent, it can only be produced when performing a strong script, which is exactly what this film has. Everything about it feels real, from the sorts of difficulties the characters must face, to their speech, which sounds like that of real teenagers, to the characters, which are multi-faceted and complex enough to be believable. One of the key things to make a film great for me is a script that keeps me on my toes. There is nothing worse than predicting a film’s ending and then being proven right. This takes all surprise and wonder out of the story. The ending of The Spectacular Now is not particularly surprising or unusual, but it avoids using anything overly clichéd, to maintain its plausibility. Indeed, the film overall is not ground-breaking or entirely unique – but it is certainly realistic and complex enough to elevate it above most other teen films. A thoroughly enjoyable watch.


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