The Spectacular Now (2013)

I watched this film from a conversation I had with a friend (below) regarding 500 Days of Summer, Ruby Sparks, Perks of Being a Wallflower, and The Spectacular Now, and how all four reflect different levels of storytelling. At the time of that conversation I had not seen The Spectacular Now, and to be completely honest I hadn’t really heard anything of it. I googled the film only to see that Shailene Woodley was starring in it – this meant one thing: I had to see it.

I’m not going to lie, this film started with so much promise but ended with nothing less than disappointment. But before I even give you my fleshed out review, here are my two Twitter rants that sum up the entire film in my thoughts:

Click the image to go to the status.

Followed by this Twitter argument,

Click the image to go to the status.

Okay, so The Spectacular Now is nothing like 500 Days of Summer, Ruby Sparks, or Perks of Being a Wallflower. It does’t even fall into the same level of enjoyment (and I feel that Perks was a little overrated).

The film revolves around the story of a boy, Sutter (played by Miles Teller), who lives in a broken family and is just recently coming out of a “perfect” relationship. He is edging towards the end of his studies and needs to decide what he wants to do with his life – college, work, party. Well, if only the film was as easy to make a distinct range of choices. We jump all over the place that you really never get to feel for Sutter, but that’s a fault in the storytelling not Teller’s performance. I actually liked his performance considering I had never seen any of his work – very distracting though, he sounds like Jonah Hill, looks like Adam Sandler and Shia Labeouf, and I had a difficult time deciding who he was!

Back to the film, Sutter finds Aimee (played by Shailene Woodley) to help him study for his math class that he is failing miserably at. Coming off a rebound to now ex-girlfriend Cassidy (played by Brie Larson), Sutter finds himself somehow falling for the girl he was planning to just “have some fun with”. Aimee, as you’d imagine, is head over heels for Sutter. Actually she is beyond that state, she is literally an attachment of his being (talk about OAG). Sure, Sutter is showing her a brand new world into alcohol, partying, boyfriends, and sex but I don’t even know who either of these characters are. Why is it their story and not Cassidy and Marcus’ (played by Dayo Okeniyi)?

I can honestly tell you, I simply do not know. Never, at any point in the film was I feeling for the characters, or thinking, “yeah, I know exactly how that feels.” It felt rushed (and was – 25 day shoot), but moreso the story felt incomplete, thoughtless, and utterly pointless. This is coming from the same people who gave us 500 Days of Summer, a film with so much heart wrenching moments and a pace that made you feel. And that is in no way a direct comparison of the two scripts or writers.

There were many moments when I felt the film was about to take a beautiful turn into some dark material, but it never went that way. My favourite instance of this is at Sutter’s sister’s house/dinner party (which wasn’t even a party it was dinner… with friends) where Sutter brings up the deep idea of an argument that the world isn’t perfect, and many relationships fail in divorce. He then follows this to the shocked face of his sister with examples from his life of divorced parents, friends, and even his new girlfriends parents. You sit in this moment thinking, “wow, this kid [Sutter] is really navigate this story and whatever was written before this section of the film was nothing,” only to have some arse agree with Sutter and completely ruin the tone of the scene. Thankfully we can rely on Aimee to quietly mention that her parent’s are in fact, not divorced. This raises two things – Sutter knows nothing about this girl and will hopefully cause some drama to take place, and (more likely) we just made arseman look like a complete fool, and there is still hope for Sutter and Aimee to live happily ever after.

But what makes Aimee’s line so perfect is the proceeding words after – “my father is dead”. Simple writing, huge emotional grab, perfect moment to shift the mood of the film… nothing. Shrugged off like it happens to everyone, and wasn’t a big deal. I hear you, yes it does play to her character that she doesn’t want Sutter to worry and she has never been in this position of boyfriend/girlfriend before but as a story device don’t include it if it didn’t mean anything. I guess you can argue that her not having a father supports the dilemma of her always thinking of her mother, and why she agrees to meet Sutter’s father, but there was no evidence from the script or characters that validates that argument.

Let’s discuss car crashes, and getting hit by a car for a moment. I’ve heard love is blind, but this story is ridiculous. Maybe it is true but how can you have anyone feel for anyone when natural reactions are not taking place? Especially to then (after crashing the car) get hit by another car and be completely fine with the situation? It definitely plays on the notion of blind and young love, but there was no innocence from the Aimee character (compare that to Brick in Anchorman 2) that made you want her to see through Sutter or make him be a better person. They are the only two options he has presented to her as a character arc of growth, but it never happened.

Effectively we sit through an hour and a half film about a person who does not grow at all, finds a girl that should be too good for him (but is not), and end up with them portraying the cliché “he surprises her after she thinks he’s never going to turn up” kind of deal. All that just to expect the entire audience to go “aww” because of the storyline said so.

If you don’t make the audience feel for the characters (especially in the darkest and hardest times of the film) you cannot expect them to rejoice when happy moments occur. I think audiences are leaning toward more open ended films, darker story lines, and brutally honest portrayal of youth. I’m not suggesting that we completely wipe the idea, but don’t make it look like one thing without actually making it that way.