Journal Express, Knoxville, IA

December 26, 2013

Movie Review: The Spectacular Now

Steve Woodhouse

Knoxville — “The Spectacular Now” is the best coming-of-age high school movie I have seen since “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” 

In this film, we follow the story of Sutter (Miles Teller), a fun-loving high school senior with a broken heart and a drinking problem. He begins to be tutored by Aimee (Shalene Woodley), the smart and sweet, but shy girl. The two bond and Sutter, noticeable to the audience, uses her to fill the void left after being dumped by his ex-girlfriend, Cassidy (Brie Larson). 

Teller's range was great and through most of the film, he comes across as a hybrid of Fred Savage and a young Vince Vaughn. I haven't seen him in any other films, but as a lead, and in this character, he does a remarkable job of carrying this one. 

Woodley is equally superb as Aimee, who never really loses that “girl next door” persona, even though we see her transition from being removed from her own shell, to providing a shell for Sutter when things go wrong. 

Kyle Chandler is not on screen much, as Sutter's estranged father. His performance as a self-absorbed, basically older version of Sutter, is strong and is the pivotal role in the film. 

One of the lessons from this movie is the important role a father has in a child's life, and the lingering effects his absence can have. Sutter's addiction, fear and problems with the real love of his life, Cassidy, can all be traced not only to the lack of a father figure, but the poor image of a man that Chandler's character does provide. 

I loved this movie. The one aspect of it with which I was most uncomfortable was part of the overall design. This discomfort is dealt with in an appropriate fashion and is used to illustrate the message of the film. As usual, there is bad language and a couple of love scenes, but I don't think any of it is gratuitous. It's easy to look beyond these things to see the love that is poured on Sutter, his opportunity for redemption and realizing the importance of appreciating what we DO have, versus what we think we should have or our delusions of how great the things that we don't have, are.