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The Spectacular Now

Here’s the problem with movies like The Spectacular Now. These low-budget indie darlings get critic love at festivals. The NY/LA early release stirs up some big city and national buzz. Then, when they come to the hinterlands, we expect to see something that is transcendent.

This is good marketing strategy, but when an anticipated mind-blower is merely okay, there’s disappointment. We should recognize that festival people and NY/LA people are sometimes more easily charmed by such films than those of us here in flyover country.

When the film’s screenwriters appear (trolling for tweets) in a prologue before the preview screening, mentioning that they also wrote 500 Days of Summer, one may figure that The Spectacular Now might match or exceed that ’09 hit.

It’s not that the central characters Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee (Shalene Woodley) aren’t real and likeable. They are. And these are two talented young actors.

Sutter is a good-time high school guy with little ambition who gets by on charm. He’s also a chronic boozer who lives for the moment, the now. Aimee is a modest background player at school who, upon meeting Sutter, discovers the perks of being a wallflower. Their relationship, with Sutter’s ex Cassidy (Brie Larson) hovering nearby, percolates slowly but eventually gains traction.

Sutter urges Aimee to stand up to her divorced mom and Aimee replies that Sutter should stand up to his divorced mom (Jennifer Jason Leigh) to find out the truth about his absent dad (Kyle Chandler).

The big question looms: Will Sutter turn out to be just like his dad and hurt Aimee (like his mom was damaged by his dad’s actions)?

This is a good movie. But it’s not half the movie that 500 Days of Summer was. Enjoy it for what it is. Although Sutter chooses to live in the “now,” you can probably just wait for the DVD.

PS: The Spectacular Now, like most movies about high school kids, uses actors who are in their 20’s. Are there no 17-year-olds who are capable of playing 17-year-olds?

PPS: Also, since this movie is obviously set in the south (it was filmed in Georgia), shouldn’t at least one of its characters have a southern accent?

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