Thursday, 16 January 2014

The Spectacular Now (2013) - ★★★★½

Director: James Ponsoldt
Writers: Scott Neustadter, Michael H. Weber (screenplay) Tim Sharp (novel)
Stars: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Masam Holden, Kyle Chandler, Nicci Faires

The Spectacular Now came out of nowhere to become one of my favourite films of 2013, and one of the all-time greatest teenage coming-of-age stories. While similar films fail to show their characters are more than skin deep, The Spectacular Now is such a breath of fresh air. It gives us a look at two very interesting teenagers, and shows their insecurities, thoughts and feelings in great depth. The reason it works as a stand-out film of its genre is due to the outstanding performances of Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller, whose chemistry is something you don't find even with the most seasoned of actors. It left me with a feeling of pure elation, which is something not many films have done this year.

The Spectacular Now follows a year in the life of Sutter (Miles Teller), who is a well liked party animal, drunkard, "relaaaax" sorta guy. After going through a tough break-up with his girlfriend and spending the night drinking, he wakes up the next morning on the lawn of Aimee (Shailene Woodley). She's a very down to Earth kinda girl, who's shy, quirky, and quite intelligent. They really hit it off, and start hanging out as friends. But as time goes on, they come to develop feelings for one another.

While watching the movie, I was always 100% entertained and invested in the characters. It was only after it finished, I truly felt like I had seen something special. It's the kind of movie that just sticks with you, and I can't really pinpoint why that is. I've got a feeling it has something to do with the perfect chemistry between Sutter and Aimee, who are so different, yet so damn good together. Neither of them are high-strung, but they both have very different priorities in life. She has her nerdy little hobbies, and he has his parties and drinking. When they're together, it's like all their differences just melt away. Woodley and Teller did so well at being natural with one another, which ultimately made the film an unforgettable experience.

The Spectacular Now is an extraordinarily well-made film. Every single scene had a purpose. There was no waffle, or unnecessary teenage schmaltz added to the mix. It's a coming-of-age film for a more mature-audience, who don't need the glitz and glamour of loud-mouthed, beautiful teenagers with personality defects (such as those in The Perks of Being a Wallflower). It's so much more than just your average rom-com teenage drama. The characters in this movie felt like real people. The dialogue and story surrounding them felt real. That's not the case with so many other movies surrounding young-adults. I don't mean to pick on The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but that movie couldn't once convince me that I was watching a story about real teenagers. It seemed so manufacture... so "Hollywood." That's why I say The Spectacular Now is a breath of fresh air. It breaks the mould and brings us something to really connect with.

I think it's fair to say that Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller both gave their greatest performances in this film. Teller might not look it, but he fits the role of a calm-natured party guy beautifully. He's such a naturally funny actor. The words just flow from his mouth so effortlessly, and his expressions always match the mood of the moment. I remember him from the movie Rabbit Hole (2010), where he gave a small but very memorable performance. I'm so glad to say that this is the movie that will make him a big player in the movie industry.

Woodley is fast becoming one of my favourite actresses today. I was so surprised at how powerful her displays of emotion were in The Descendants (2011). She really made that film for me. In The Spectacular Now, she stunned me by completely becoming her character. She had little to no make-up on, and transformed into a believable nerdy, unpopular girl. If it weren't for her, I probably wouldn't have enjoyed this movie so much. I got so much enjoyment out of listening to her dreams and logic, because let's face it, we don't often get to see many intelligent teenagers in movies. What's more, Woodley made me really care about Aimee. There's one scene in the film that had me devastated, and that's all because of the way Woodley made me invested in her character. It's easily one of the best performances of the year. One that deserves more awards buzz than other performances. *cough* *cough*... Jennifer Lawrence.

On top of the excellent character development and outstanding performances, director James Ponsoldt topped it all off by crafting The Spectacular Now into a beautiful, memorable experience. It had its stunning moments and a fantastic soundtrack, which is all the more reason to love it. While this movie doesn't exactly scream "masterpiece" like 12 Years a Slave and Gravity, it does trump them in one special way. This is an effortlessly phenomenal film, that is great because of its characters and story alone.

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