Movie Review: The Spectacular Now

07/29/2013 06:55 am ET | Updated Sep 28, 2013


It's the rare teenager who can see beyond tomorrow. While they may worry about the future, they tend to live in the moment because, among other things, they feel immortal and most have little evidence to the contrary.

Certainly that's the case with Sutter Keely (Miles Teller), the high-school senior at the center of James Ponsoldt's touching, if familiar, The Spectacular Now, opening Friday in limited release. Sutter is the ultimate party animal in his high school in little Athens, Ga.: the smooth-talking guy who everyone knows is good for a laugh, a quip or a solid.

Still, Miles -- a child of divorce with obvious father issues and, as we learn, bad genes -- has been thrown for a loop. As graduation approaches, he's been dumped by his longtime girlfriend, Cassidy (Brie Larson), who tells him she wants to plan for the future, rather than simply living for the moment, as Miles does.

Even as he works lackadaisically at filling out his college applications, Miles is at loose ends. He wakes up after one particular drunken night on the front lawn of a classmate he barely knows: Aimee Finicky (Shailene Woodley). It's 6 a.m. and she's about to do her mother's paper route. The free-wheeling Sutter accompanies her and ends up eating lunch with her later that day at school -- much to everyone's surprise.

Because, obviously, Sutter is a player and, just as obviously, Aimee isn't. But there's something about her: the way she listens to Sutter, the appreciation she seems to have for just being noticed, let alone noticed by someone like Sutter. Before long, she's sharing nips from his hip flask and agreeing to attend prom with him.

There's more: rows with his crabby, overworked mother (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a trip to see his long-absent father (Kyle Chandler), the occasional nod from the ex-girlfriend that seems to indicate a lingering interest. And, oh yeah, that hip flask.

Which is, in a sense, the film's real subject.

This review continues on my website.