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Movie review: ‘The Spectacular Now’

Posted 5:07pm on Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013

R (alcohol use, strong language, sexuality); 95 min.

The Spectacular Now is a lovely movie about young people that is in no way a formula picture. All the story bumps that we anticipate and dread in youth movies, the obligatory arguments, fake conflicts, stupid misunderstandings that could be cleared up but never are — none of those are here. Instead we get a movie that is original, truthful and moving.

Perhaps the key is that it’s not about the phenomenon of being young, but rather about the particular characters, who are as specific and vivid as actual people. What a gift for a young actor to be handed the role of Sutter in The Spectacular Now: Sutter (Miles Teller) is lovable and troubled. He has enormous things going for him, and just as enormous things going against him.

Sutter is nearing graduation and coping with a recent breakup. His girlfriend has gotten rid of him, not because she doesn’t think he’s a great guy, but because she senses that he’s a dead-end street. He’s affable, at home everywhere, at the center or near the center of every room he enters. At the same time, he has no plans and, despite a winning intelligence, just might flunk out of school.

He doesn’t care about the future, only about the “spectacular now,” and he’s drinking, not necessarily more than other kids his age, but in ways that are slightly weird. When a teenager goes around with a flask and drinks a little bit around the clock, something is off.

The film’s central relationship begins when Sutter is discovered on the front lawn, after a night of drinking, by one of his classmates, Aimee (Shailene Woodley). She is not considered cool, though neither is she an object of scorn, and with great decisiveness, Sutter decides that he likes her, despite his still having feelings for his ex.

Anyway, that much gets us about 15 minutes into The Spectacular Now, and to reveal any more of the story would detract from the experience. It’s not that anything especially astounding happens, but rather that the typical things don’t — and the things that do happen are things that might happen in real life.

Exclusive: Angelika Dallas; Angelika Plano

— Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle

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