Often you will stumble upon a film, watch the trailer and think ‘Yeah, let’s give that a go, it looks decent.‘ Only occasionally will that stumbled upon piece of cinema be a game-changer. A think about your life feature that has you in tears, for reasons beyond what you have just seen on screen. Said film, in this case, and as the title indicates is The Spectacular Now. Released in 2013 and shot on a humble budget of $2.5 million, James Ponsoldt’s film hits you straight in the feels. Those feels, are real. The power of Miles Teller as eighteen year old Sutter Keely is almost indescribable and his transition from adolescence to adulthood is incredibly poignant. Shailene Woodley, while not as central to the narrative as one might think is just a great force and wonderfully likeable as Aimee Finecky who has a glorious lust for life and is adamant to see only the good in Sutter.
Firstly, Ponsoldt directs Woodley and Teller with such a loving eye, but one that never enters cliched romantic-drama territory. This story feels one hundred percent real, what you are watching is not a glorified over-exaggeration of made up relationships but a fictional portrayal of a relatable partnership. Intimate scenes are not covered up by a non-diegetic acoustic soundtrack, refreshingly they focus on the event unfolding and viewers will be transported back to a time when they felt just like that. The romantic element never takes over from what is at the centre here – Sutter‘s reluctance to graduate high school entwined with the surreal image he carries of his absent Father and obvious commitment issues. Oh, and the underlying drinking habit which the audience are reminded of in almost every scene. Sutter comes with baggage (which is initially hidden), but we can deal with that. What unwinds in the 95 minutes is a story of revelations, a little heartache, and a look into this teenagers life who – come the end – is no longer just a character in a film.
Teller narrates the film at appropriate intervals and Ponsoldt gives us a swiftly edited, genuinely funny opening scene which paints a clear picture of the situation we are going into. Written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber the screenplay is written with enough quirk to comfortably fit within an indie production but screams out with intelligence and sharp wit which is often missed in contemporary cinema. There are so many positives to this inspiring feature, which will genuinely have an impact on you, but to truly understand why this is possibly one of the best films you will ever see – you just have to sit your bum down and watch for yourself. Rather magnificently, The Spectacular Now will hold different meanings for each individual viewing, and that power is something to be applauded.
A domestic story (to a certain extent at least), Ponsoldt’s film captures the wonderment and difficulties of growing up. A beautifully told story that deserves to be watched time and again. Damn near perfect.