Spectacular Now Reboots Teen Romance Genre with Strong Acting, Message
- Friday, August 09, 2013
Release Date: August 2, 2013 (limited)
Rating: R for alcohol use, language and some sexuality—all involving teens
Run Time: 95 min.
Director: James Ponsoldt
Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kyle Chandler, Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead
What ever happened to teen romance at the movies?
The genre hasn’t disappeared, of course. It's still a staple. But straightforward teen romances don't seem to be as common in contemporary cinema as they were in the 1980s. Yes, the Twilight and Hunger Games films could be considered romances, but their supernatural and fantastical elements set them apart from the real-world coming-of-age teen films of a few decades ago. Think about movies like The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink which tapped into teenage romantic desire and the challenge of connecting with one another across school cliques; these movies helped to launch the careers of several promising actors.
In 2011, the little-seen but well-performed Like Crazy put its own spin on the genre, substituting slightly older (college age) protagonists and legal problems for the social-status, high school-based drama of better-known genre entries. Now comes The Spectacular Now, starring two little-known actors in the lead roles who, like the leads in those 1980s high-school dramas, could go on to great things.
Sutter (Miles Teller, Footloose) lives for the moment. He underachieves in his classes but makes sure he's at the weekend parties. A flask always close at hand, Miles stays buzzed much of the day. Although the film opens with Miles composing an answer for a college application, the story soon makes it clear that he has no ambitions beyond his day-to-day plans. He drinks, he gets drunk, he falls down.
That's how Aimee (Shailene Woodley) finds Sutter—passed out in the front yard of a home he doesn't recognize. The two strike up a friendship, which soon develops into something more, even if Sutter can't bring himself to acknowledge that fact. His relationship with Cassidy (Brie Larson, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World) has faltered, but he hasn't entirely let her go. When a friend notes Sutter's growing closeness to Aimee and calls her "a strange choice for a rebound," Sutter assures him that he's merely giving the 17-year-old Aimee her first "boyfriend experience"—nothing serious, at least not to Sutter.
Nor is anything else serious to Sutter. He works at a local men's clothing store, but he steals sips from his flask while on duty. When Cassidy's new boyfriend tracks him down at the shop and confronts Sutter about his lingering affection for Cassidy, Sutter turns on the charm and leaves the new beau pleasantly flummoxed. "You're not the joke everyone thinks," Cassidy's new boyfriend tells Sutter.
Sutter doesn't much care about what others think of him. He's too busy keeping himself "lubricated" to confront the pain in his life. Why does Sutter drink so often? The Spectacular Now suggests Sutter is covering the pain from his father's long-ago abandonment of his mom and family.
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