The opening of The Spectacular Now shows us the central character, Sutter (Miles Teller) at his computer, typing an essay on something that was hard and challenging in his life as part of his application for college.
He recounts his exploits of the night before, with flashbacks indicating to the audience something of his character, his partying, his relationship with Cassidy (Brie Larsen) the glamorous blonde beauty of the class. He also starts to tell something of the truth about himself but deletes the letter.
As the film takes us into those high school parties, loud, dancing, drink… teenagers and young adults may get excited by this, while older audiences may slip back into their seats and wonder what they are going to be asked to endure. However, the film does improve both for its target audience as well as for those who may not be drawn into it immediately.
Sutter is 18, in the final year at school, not particularly interested in classes, full of wisecracks, considered something of a clown by others at the school. At this stage we are not sure that he has anything more to his character.
The Spectacular Now obviously means living to the full in the present, relishing it, glorying in it. At least, this seems to be the philosophy of Sutter. But Sutter, living in the now or in the immediate past, partying, drinking, trying to make an impression on his girlfriend, Cassidy, and generally failing.
The film is Sutter’s story. He lives with his mother, separated from her husband, working on night shifts in a hospital. This gives Sutter plenty of time to indulge himself, with Cassidy, his best friend whom he is trying to set up with a girl, making wisecracks which he discovers later make him seem like a clown to his fellow-students. And he drinks, often and strongly, with his concealed flask. What is to happen to Sutter, especially as he deletes the application for college?
The film is clearly a moral fable, especially about being one’s true and genuine self, not setting up a facade image, as well as in developing a sense of responsibility – and knowing that there can be a spectacular now another tomorrow, the next day.
- Peter Malone, ACOFB
Starring Miles Teller, Shaileene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh. Directed by James Ponsoldt. 97 minutes. Rated M (mature themes, sex scenes and coarse language).