The Spectacular Now (2013) Film Review from the 57th Annual BFI London Film Festival (LFF), a movie directed by James Ponsoldt, starring Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Kyle Chandler.
2013 is full of great coming-of-age films with all of them tackling different subjects. When it comes down to leaving the world of the teenager and becoming an adult, no film this is year is better than The Spectacular Now. Here, finally, we see a simple, realistic teenage story. We don’t have complicated past tragedies or some chronic disease present in the life of our main character. We see a normal boy and a girl with normal problems and personalities but their mundane story is told strongly. If you are a teenager, very few films in your memory will make you go through the thrills of love, disappointment, and the making of important decisions the way The Spectacular Now does.
The reason why every teenager will connect with James Ponsoldt’s film is how real it feels. This realism is accomplished through many smart choices. The style of acting, particularly that of the two lead actors, is unique. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley will undeniably become big stars in the future if they preserve their extremely professional approach to their characters. Their performances are highly original. The dialogue is energetic, quick, and passionate yet it is always clear when it has to be. It feels like it comes straight from the heart and in all honesty this is how teenagers are supposed to speak. Teller and Woodley generate pain and happiness through every word, facial expression, smile, and cry with affectionate truthfulness.
This engaging realism is also present in the story of The Spectacular Now. We have no heart-breaking plot twists or over the top dramatic situations. The film is about the first love and the first love is never something too extreme when it comes down to events. James Ponsoldt superbly paves the way to the first kiss with quiet romantic tension that grows unstoppably. It is silent, simple, and extremely ordinary but the emotional journey on which the audience is taken is undeniably romantic and sweet.
The Spectacular Now is ultimately about the three main things that govern every 21st century teenager: the crazy fun of parties, the passionate feeling of love, and the difficult way towards responsibility. The main character, Sutter, goes through all of these in the simplest and yet most powerful way. The writers of 500 Days of Summer, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, understand youth life perfectly. They know that the most painful experience of growing up is realizing all the mistakes you have made and correcting them. There is no easy way of doing the right thing. Learning means hurting yourself and hurting the person in front of you. This is the simplest and yet most painful truth about growing up upon which The Spectacular Now is built.
The great achievement of The Spectacular Now for me is the way this teenage film (not a genre that gets critical praise) affects you so much emotionally and meaningfully. This film is so emotive because the characters suffer when they are not doing anything wrong really. Sutter is partying, having fun, and living for the moment like every teenager ought to. This proves to be enough for him to go through a lot of pain by the end of the film. The conflict here is not so much about right and wrong. It’s about the conflict between being a child and being a grown-up, being careless and being serious. This is the irreversible tragedy that stirs up the heart of every teen sooner or later: having to abandon what you want to do for what you have to do. You know that you are an adult when the ‘want’ and the ‘have to’ become one and the same. This is the film’s invaluable lesson. The Spectacular Now lets the viewer walk the teen’s journey the whole nine yards the way it actually is: simply but powerfully.