Magazine article Screen International

The Spectacular Now

Magazine article Screen International

The Spectacular Now

Article excerpt

Dir: James Ponsoldt. US. 2012. 99mins

Early into this high school coming-of-age comic-drama, the two teenage leads slip away from a riverside party and take a stroll in the forest together. The camera follows them in a single uninterrupted take; bits of sunlight filter through the trees; birdcalls can be heard in the background; and a budding connection is formed. It's a beautifully relaxed and naturalistic sequence, particularly refreshing for a genre that all too often feels as if it was constructed with short-attention spans in mind.

At least The Spectacular Now has something to say, about the seeming indestructibility of youth and the desire to hold on to that ephemeral feeling.

Like the aforementioned scene, The Spectacular Now begins at a place we've seen before--with a high school senior attempting to fill out his college applications--and moves towards points that feel refreshingly darker and more meaningful. That's not to say The Spectacular Now is groundbreaking stuff. There are broken hearts, a prom dance, and familiar final-act revelations. But written by the screenwriters of (500) Days of Summer, the film injects some hard-won poignancy into the tale of a young man wavering on the precipice of adulthood.

Because of its occasionally serious approach, The Spectacular Now will require careful handling from specialty distributors, but with a pair of rising stars, Miles Teller (Project X) and Shailene Woodley (The Descendants), and an emotionally satisfying story, the film could achieve some potentially spectacular sales in the US. But no (500) Days, the film's overseas box-office potential is less assured.

When we first meet Sutter Kelly (Teller), he's the self-described life-of-the-party, a strong-willed class-clown who loves everyone. Never without a flask of whiskey by his side or a quick-witted excuse for some bad behavior, he always lives in the moment--without considering the consequences. And though he's broken up with his gorgeous girlfriend (Brie Larson), the magnetic big-man on campus has every intention of getting her back.

After one late-night binge, Sutter wakes up on the lawn of Annie Finicky (Woodley), a timid, wide-eyed girl who likes graphic sci-fi novels and French club, and lives under the thumb of her controlling (unseen) mother. It doesn't take long before Sutter, who just wants to "help" Annie break out of her shell, finds himself enamoured of this less popular unexpected beauty. …

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