‘The Spectacular Now’ aches with realistic adolescent angst
Rather than calling it a “teen movie” simply because it takes place partly at a high school, director James Ponsoldt has referred to “The Spectacular Now” as “an adult movie about teens.” The semantic difference may sound subtle, but the point is well taken, as this independent coming-of-age drama that pulls no punches will captivate and challenge audiences of all ages.
Life-of-the-party Sutter (Miles Teller) unexpectedly connects with introverted Aimee (Shailene Woodley) as the two both struggle with family life and their plans for after graduation. Their difficult experiences are mature, relatable and sometimes painful to watch, largely thanks to the powerfully unguarded emotions delivered by the talented, naturalistic young actors. Kyle Chandler and Jennifer Jason Leigh have small but sharply focused roles as Sutter’s messily divorced parents.
With a script based on the novel by Tim Tharp, writers Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber score again after their first screenplay, the similarly disarming “(500) Days of Summer.” It’s a compliment to say you don’t know where the story is going, and that you may be holding your breath and hoping these kids find their way.