The Spectacular Now is a very unmemorable title. In every step of the review process, from getting the assignment, to asking the man at the theater for my pass, to sitting down to write this review, I’ve completely forgotten what this movie is called. This is not the fault of anything in the film of course, this is a perfectly serviceable coming of age story with mostly likeable characters, tense swings of drama, and a sense of realism that pervades the entire picture. I’m just saying it’s no Breakfast Club in terms of instant brand recognition.
The story of The Incredible Now is the story of Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), a teenager living in the moment, with that moment being the end of his high school days. When Sutter is “on”, talking to his friends and his customers at work with a slick style, it’s as if he is the lovechild of Jeff Goldblum and Shia LaBeouf. However, this is actually to the film’s benefit, as it makes Sutter very believable as a specific kind of teenager. The kind who would talk first and ask questions later, step over everyone else at all times, and, most importantly, yell as their primary form of communication. The way he carries himself is instantly recognizable to anyone who went through that particular phase, or had the misfortune to be friends with someone who did.
Also impressive is the way that the film uses movie tropes to defy the viewers expectations for the majority of its running time. Sutter breaks up with his high school sweetheart within the first ten minutes of the film, but she is not vindictive, and the two share a few more scenes together and have legitimate conversations about their relationship. Sutter meets his new girlfriend, Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley), when he awakens woozily from a night of partying on her lawn. Aimee seems amused more than anything, and the two spend the day hanging out together.
Scenes continue on like this in The Amazing Now, and I concede that it is an achievement to see a feature film that feels so lifelike. Perhaps the only thing that brings you back to Earth in the film is Sutter’s deadbeat dad (Kyle Chandler), who is such a stereotypical drunk that the scenes he’s in feel as if they were spliced in from an after school special. I’m aware that stereotypes exist because they’re mostly true, but if I’m reminded of an episode of Animaniacs by a character you’ve written into your serious drama, perhaps they could use a defining trait or two.
For those who enjoy grounded drama and relatable characters, The Magnificent Now is certainly the movie for you. It has an almost dreamlike quality to it, taking place in an undefined time period that includes both a high saturation of Apple products and a classroom containing a traditional blackboard. College forms to fill out over the Internet in a room decorated with wood paneling and vinyl records. Teenagers who dance to rap music, yet drink from flasks and spend summer days sitting outside with a blow up pool. And don’t get me started on the prevalence of bow ties in this film.
Simply put, The Fabulous Now is not the kind of film that I would normally see, and the fact that I could come out of it with a shrug means that it did its job well. The few pictures I’ve seen of this type that were made outside of the 1980s have done nothing but bore me to tears, but this movie did no such thing. Instead, it was simply acceptable, a fine love story with an impressive sense of realism and an awful title. So if you’re tired of superheroes defeating villains or comedians plumbing the depths of America’s tolerance for offensive humor, give The Sensational Now a shot. There are certainly worse ways to spend your time.
In Theaters: August 23, 2013
Runtime: 100 min
Rating: Rated R for alcohol use, language and some sexuality – all involving teens
Director: James Ponsoldt
Cast: Miles Teller, Shailene Woodley, Brie Larson, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Kyle Chandler
Genre: Coming Of Age, Romance, Dramedy
Official Site: http://spectacularnowmovie.com/