Last week, the Austin Film Society screened The Spectacular Now at the Marchesa Hall & Theatre followed by a Q&A with Director James Ponsoldt and I was lucky enough to attend.
Based on the book by Tim Tharp, this film is about a troubled, hard-partying high school senior named Sutter that gets dumped by his girlfriend and starts hanging out with Aimee, a quiet, "nice girl" from school. He keeps telling himself that she is just his rebound, but eventually they fall in love and she changes the way he looks at his life and his other relationships.
While the relationship between Sutter and Aimee is the main focus of the story, it is really about a young man who is not happy and uses alcohol to block his pain. As someone who often projects a happier persona and uses movies and television, as opposed to alcohol, to distract me from my life, I definitely identified with Sutter. In one of my favorite scenes, Sutter is talking to his teacher and he says, "I don't see what's so great about being an adult. Are you happy?" and the teacher has no response. Sutter would rather live in the moment than have to think about his future. He pushes away the people that love him and care about him because he does not want them to see that he is miserable.
The only minor issue I have with the film is that there does not seem to be any repercussions for Sutter's destructive behavior. His boss is the only adult that even says anything to him about his drinking problem, but he does not actually do anything to help him. His mom seems to be oblivious, as does his teacher. The teacher at least notices his lack of motivation, but does not do or say anything to try and figure out what is the real issue. There is even a rather large car accident at some point and no one questions him or his girlfriend about being intoxicated.
Shailene Woodley and Miles Teller are excellent as Aimee and Sutter. After seeing The Descendants, I knew that Woodley was a much better actress than I first thought and I am happy to see her career blossoming the way it has been. I look forward to her upcoming films The Fault In Our Stars and Divergent. The only other project of Teller's that I have watched is the Footloose remake, which I really enjoyed, but it was nice to finally see him in dramatic role. He will also be in Divergent with Woodley next year.
Overall, this is a very sweet, real story that was incredibly moving and I enjoyed it very much. It is currently only in limited release, but I highly recommend seeing it if you have the opportunity.