Craig's First Take: "The Spectacular Now"

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A hard-partying high school senior's philosophy on life changes when he meets the not-so-typical "nice girl."
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Wanna be a young actor breaking out in Hollywood? Turn to screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael Weber. Their “(500) Days of Summer” brought Joseph Gordon Leavitt and Zoe Deschanel into the fold as attractable stars and based on “The Spectacular Now” winning the special jury prize for acting at the Sundance Film Festival this past year, it’s safe to say Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are about to get a bump as well.

Not to say we didn’t know them before. Woodley was George Clooney’s daughter in “The Descendants”, and also made news for being cut from the next “Spiderman” movie. Teller was in the movie “Rabbit hole” with Nicole Kidman but also in teen boozer films “Project X” and “21 and Over” (the last two begging an interesting comparison here). The two are also going to be seen together again in “Divergent”, the next YA novel I’ve never heard of but will assume is a phenomenon anyway.

Teller here plays Sutter, a party-boy dumped by his girlfriend (Brie Larson) after he cheats on her, sending him into an all-night alcohol binge. He wakes up the next morning on the lawn of someone elses house, with Aimee (Woodley) standing over him. Aimee is that plain, nice girl that no one notices but Sutter is attracted, at first to use her to try and get his ex back but soon the two are bonding over their troubles with their parents and how those mirror how they see themselves in romantic relationships.

“Spectacular”, based on Tim Tharp’s book, is being billed as a romance but it actually takes a darker turn. Sutter happens to be a raging, self-centered alcoholic, prone to just live in the now than plan any type of future for himself. Aimee on the other hand joins in on his drinking on occasion, but seems to take on more of a motherly role. This is Sutter’s story of finding redemption, and it takes an interesting turn later when meeting his no-good father (Kyle Chandler) sends him further toward the edge.

Woodley and Teller are each fantastic here and the movie’s message of living life out loud but in proper modulation is a good one, especially for teens, but the movie is more dreary than it is heartfelt and involving and it feels like we’ve seen this type of alcoholic romance many times before; director James Ponsoldt even made one last year called “Smashed.” But if you’re seeing it, see it for Woodley and Teller. They’re the real deal.