The Spectacular Now suggests that screen depictions of teenage alcohol abuse have come a long way since Scott Baio was seen as a high-school athlete following in his father's hard- drinking ways in The Boy Who Drank Too Much, a 1980 made-for-TV movie.
The Spectacular Now suggests that screen depictions of teenage alcohol abuse have come a long way since Scott Baio was seen as a high-school athlete following in his father’s hard- drinking ways in The Boy Who Drank Too Much, a 1980 made-for-TV movie.
Like the Baio character, high-school senior Sutter Keely (Miles Teller) imbibes with abandon in the new film from director James Ponsoldt.
The script by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber is based on the acclaimed 2008 novel by Tim Tharp, but their work resembles more a thoughtful coming-of-age drama than a pointed, lesson-laden cautionary tale.
Sutter, a born charmer who lives for the moment, seems to have coasted on his innate likability for much of his life. Still, the charm has worn thin for girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson).The start of the movie finds Sutter recently dumped after a misunderstanding with her and longing for a return to the days when they were considered “the life of every party.”
After a night of drinking, he wakes up on the lawn of a bookish classmate, Aimee (Shailene Woodley), to whom he hasn’t paid much attention.The popular boy, to her delight, starts spending time with her.
Throughout the film, the audience understands that Sutter likes to party hard — as he is rarely seen without a cup of alcohol-spiked soda, even on the job at a men’s suit store.Nonetheless, when he presents Aimee with a flask as a prom gift, the surprise offers a testament to the nuanced handling of the plot element.
Beyond the unforced approach of Ponsoldt behind the camera, the film benefits enormously from the performances of Teller and Woodley.He wears the role of Sutter like a second skin, while she infuses Aimee with deeply affecting sweetness and solemnity.
Although it lends sensitivity to a tale of teenage strife and young romance, The Spectacular Now also illustrates the lack of evolution in such stories. Father issues, as in the old TV movie, play a significant role in the narrative; and an intriguing female lead, as in the screenwriters’ previous (500) Days of Summer, is defined almost exclusively by the gaze of her male counterpart.