It's been a dearth of good movies this summer. Last year while sitting through The Dark Knight Rises and being completely bored, I vowed never to see another superhero movie. I know I'm not going to miss anything, it's always the same story. I kept to that vow all summer which unfortunately meant that I didn't get to see much. However I'm grateful for Stories We Tell, Before Midnight, Blue Jasmine and now The Spectacular Now.
What a breath of fresh air this movie is. It is not groundbreaking or terribly original. It's just a really well told story with real human beings who have interesting emotional lives. The movie tells the story of ne'er do well high schooler (Miles Teller) with serious alcohol abuse problems and major daddy issues and his unexpected romance with a shy, earnest and very smart classmate (Shailene Woodley). It's smart enough to build a world of interesting characters around these two that include their families, friends, exes and co-workers. every last character is not a cliche.
Teller is fantastic as he guides the audience to knowing his character from the party boy to the destructive angry guy that lurks beneath. Woodley gives such an endearing performance, very lived in and honest that made me think of a few people I know, it seemed like she wasn't acting at all . In fact both are natural and unaffected. The ensemble is almost uniformly good, from Jennifer Jason Leigh to Mary Elizabeth Winstead to Brie Larson to Andre Royo ( hi Bubbles from The Wire) to Bob Odenkirk. The only one who didn't convince me was Kyle Chandler. I don't want to give away why because it's a plot point.
A lot of references have been made about how this movie to a throwback to good teenage movies like Say Anything and John Hughes' oeuvre. However what I liked about the script is its concentration on character - yes these two are teenagers about the script, by 500 Days of Summer's Michael H Weber and Scott Neustadter, doesn't want to make any points about being young. It just tells this particular story. Kudos also to the director James Ponsoldt for keeping this unhurried and open with a lot of long takes that allow the viewer to appreciate the natural performances.
Go see it. Now.