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Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Spectacular Now



Imagine Shailene Woodley's surprise when she finds Miles Teller passed out on someone's lawn while delivering her mother's paper route at 6am. Teller is well-known in their high school, not for any particular athletic or academic achievements, but for being a gregarious party boy screw up. Teller is a confident schmoozer rarely without a plastic soda cup in hand, which he spikes from his omnipresent secret flask. Teller should be applying for college - or applying himself in any fashion - but he lives in the Now, with no particular whims about tomorrow. 

After a not-uncommon bender, he's found by Woodley, who at first fears he's dead. Teller awakens and quickly charms her. She's beautiful, obviously, but guys don't normally see her that way. She reads sci-fi, has never had a boyfriend, and has a domineering mother. Teller is drawn to her, which he can't quite admit to himself, attracted as he still is to his ex Brie Larson. Woodley is flattered by his attention, intrigued by his verbosity and charm. They like each other, and it goes from there. It's first love, it's tender, it's sweet, it's raw, it's painful, and indeed, it's spectacular. 

Written by the scribes of [500] Days of Summer and directed by James Ponsoldt, The Spectacular Now is a golden little treasure of a coming of age film. The smooth-talking Teller is a cauldron of abandonment issues, as well as his increasingly alarming alcoholism, both a result of his deadbeat dad Kyle Chandler, whom Teller and Woodley visit in the film's most heart wrenching sequence. Teller gifts a flask of her own to Woodley, a red flag that the film thankfully doesn't pursue, though tragedy does blindside Woodley in an unexpected way. Woodley has hopes and a plan of her own for her future, and The Spectacular Now suffers in its third act as it seems to rush to find a pat resolution to Teller's issues, but that doesn't diminish the spectacular lead performances by Teller and Woodley. Why, if Star Wars were a coming of age indie film, it would be the scene in the tavern where Teller and Woodley see exactly what kind of man his father really is.