Saturday, September 13, 2014

Review: The Spectacular Now (Film)

The Spectacular Now (2013) is yet another film adaption of a critically acclaimed Young Adult novel. The book centers upon a charismatic young man, Sutter Keely, who is known as the class clown and the life of the party.  He's also, tragically, an alcoholic.  The plot focuses on his meeting and forming a relationship with fellow student Aimee Finecky, who is a super nice girl, but powerfully uncool. I read the book about a year ago and I remember that I thought very highly of it.  However, I was very taken aback by the ending — it is extremely bittersweet, in fact, mostly bitter.  The best word for it is unsettling. However, the quality of the novel was such that I was left very impressed.

I can't say I was as impressed by the movie, but I still thought it was solid and a very good adaption.  That being said, my feelings while watching the movie were all over the place.

For the first 20-or-so minutes, I hated — hated — Miles Teller's performance as Sutter.  My viewing notes are vitriolic:
I'm not sure if he's acting like a douche-hat troglodyte intentionally or unintentionally.
This actor seems to be of the camp that thinks the more crap that comes out of your mouth, the funnier you are.
Was book-Sutter this repugnant?
Hate this actor's perpetually puckered bro-sneer.

I grew to appreciate his acting and character more as the film went on, but I still stand by my initial perception of Teller's Sutter.   I very nearly stopped watching the movie because I was so turned off by his sleazy interpretation. Book-Sutter is supposed to be this charming, charismatic character, but Teller added a dash of asshole to that mix.  He was extremely unsympathetic.

Shailene Woodley, however, was excellent. Her portrayal of Aimee was endearing and relatable and it made perfect sense that everyone who got to know her would fall in love with her. Plus, Woodley's voice has this adorable squeak/crack thing going on that made it really fun to listen to her say her lines. Overall, her performance left me convinced.

Basically, until Woodley showed up, I thought the movie was dismal.  But, things improved steadily once her character was introduced and Sutter grew some humanity.  However, there are few real standout scenes, nothing that would incentivize a second or third viewing of the movie.  I will say that the filmmakers adapted the book well, and the pacing was very successful. My favorite part of the movie was an excellently scripted and acted dinner party scene.  The mood was palpably tense and emotional, and there were some great moments of what can only be called micro-acting.  The performances were nuanced down to the facial twitch.  If only the whole movie had been full of scenes like that! Alas.

One thing I do want to touch on before wrapping up this review is the ending of the film.  The filmmakers decided to go in a different direction than the book.  Significantly different.  There isn't much I can write without spoiling things, but I thought the book's ending was truer to the story.  I'm also a little confused because the movie was rated-R.  Because they decided to go with an R-rating, you'd think the filmmakers were dedicated to portraying the book — teen language, underage alcohol consumption, de-flowering, etc. — accurately.  So why then was there such a PG-13 ending?

All in all, if you are a fan of indie dramas, The Spectacular Now ought to be right up your alley.  However, like in most cases, I'd recommend the book over the movie.


  1. I've seen the movie and I though it was pretty good but I can't compare it to the book because I haven't read it (I know, SACRILEGE!)
    Anyways, a very nice review ;)

    1. Thank you! And if you're in the mood for a somber-ish read, try the book out. :D

  2. I saw the first 20mins of this movie and haven't finished it yet. Not a big fan of Miles Teller either but hopefully I'll appreciate him more later on like you?

    1. I don't think you'd be missing anything by not finishing it. Also, have you seen Divergent. Miles Teller plays one of the villains and is so effectively hateful. I think that dislike carried over for me, to the Spectacular Now.

    2. Yep I've seen it and I definitely am not a fan of Miles Teller. He always comes off kind of douchy for me lol.

    3. I know! His career is taking off, which I don't really comprehend. He's going to be one of the MCs in the new Fantastic Four movie, which is kind of a big deal. It'll be interesting to see if he comes across as a douchelord in a big blockbuster where he's playing a literal hero.