Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Spectacular Now

I do not own the above image.  Copyright 21 Laps Entertainment.  All rights reserved.

            Every once in a while, a movie comes around that I don’t want to talk about before you see it.  A movie so special that referencing a single detail almost feels like spoiling the experience.  THE SPECTACULAR NOW is that.  If you’re like me & want to know as little as possible, trust me: go see this!
            Sutter (Teller) is lost in adolescence.  The product of a divorced home, Sutter has all the social pressures (partying, relationships) and academic issues we did at 17.  When Sutter meets classmate Aimee (Woodley), surely his life is turned completely upside down.  Luckily, the answer is no.
            Screenwriters Michael Weber & Scott Neustadter of (500) DAYS OF SUMMER fame understand that not everyone in the movie-going public is stupid.  They know that clichés & genre tropes are overplayed like “Blurred Lines”.  So just like they did with SUMMER, TSN goes against the grain.  Director James Ponsoldt’s film, based on a novel by Tim Tharp, is something I’ve never seen before: a teenage borderline dark comedy.  Many random chuckles were had by the preview audience.  Yours truly?  Not so much.  I just sat there for the entire 95 minute runtime with a slight frown the entire time.  TSN has a complete tent of depression on top of it.  Alcoholism
            But why only slight frown?  Simply, this movie is wonderful.  The teenagers (played by twenty-somethings) act & talk like teenagers.  The romance feels quite organic.  Every character’s relationship to each other has real sense of authenticity to them.  The two leads are perfect in their roles.  The supporting cast, including a cameo from one certain overlooked “football coach”, is superb.
            Best of all are the little things.  Little things that blockbusters or horny teenager or cookie-cutter rom-coms don’t dare have.  There is a simple dialogue scene that lasts over 2 minutes.  There are no interruptions, no fireworks and it’s done in a single shot.  What was the longest single shot in IRON MAN 3 or THE AVENGERS?  The average ticket buyer gets bored way too easily for shots like that.  Sutter & Aimee make love.  Notice I didn’t say have sex.  In the movies, when two people jump into bed together, usually you see clothes throw all over the place, breasts are shown (if the actress is ample & young enough) and the guy dances beforehand.  Here, the shot is simple.  Just two people in love, in bed, just talking.  Then the clothes slowly come off, they make-out, contraception is discussed…  In other words, this is a real love scene.  Nothing in this movie is sugar-coated.
I can’t say that the “L” word for any element or the film as a whole but TSN certainly entertained the heck out of me.  It’s a film about teenagers but not a “teen movie”.  It has romance but it’s not a “chick flick”.  THE SPECTACULAR NOW is a “human film”: the kind of movie that works on all levels and is for all (age appropriate) mankind.


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