Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Spectacular Now

The impact of some films gets better the longer you think about them.  My annoyance with this one has grown the longer I think about it.

The Spectacular Now sounded like it would be an uplifting drama.  Not.

I thought Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine was tragic, but Director James Ponsoldt’s  The Spectacular Now seemed even more tragic, dealing with the sad plight of teens, who hadn’t yet begun to live their lives.

What the two films have in common is spectacular performances by the leading women, Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine and the fabulous Shailene Woodley (The Descendants) in this film. 
What they don’t have in common is a brilliant screenplay.  Here it seems a life drama was written by writers who haven’t yet begun to have lives.

A second problem was the worst miscasting since Count Vronsky in Anna Karenina with the film’s mail lead.   It’s not that Miles Teller is a bad actor.  On the contrary.  The problem is that he is not believable in this role of Sutter Kiely, an 18-year old loser, who appeals to Cassidy (Brie Larson), the hottest babe in his class, and, then, to Woodley’s Aimee Finecky, who, though an inexperienced young woman, is very smart and has a clear vision of what she wants from the future.  Why these two young women would be attracted to a pimple-faced, alcoholic party boy defies my wide suspension of disbelief, especially when his male classmates have him rightly pegged as a joke. 

Despite this fact, Woodley’s honest portrayal keeps the audience totally focused on her and hoping the frog next to her might somehow be transformed into a worthy prince.  Unfortunately, that’s not to be.
Then, there’s the misguided title.  There’s nothing spectacular in the young creep’s or his estranged father’s concept of the “now.”  In fact, they and whoever came up with this title denigrate the positive philosophy of living in the moment.

Those who are readers of my reviews know that I don’t, usually, give away too much of the plot unless the film is really bad or, as in this case, is truly annoying. 

So, here’s a Spoiler Alert…  The writers/director, here, pull off a nasty trick on members of the audience, making us believe Aimee has been killed and, then…while I was wondering whether to leave now that the only character worth watching was gone… after a few scenes lasting several minutes where Sutter talks under ominous music to a doctor and then is back in school, casually bring Aimee back with just an injured arm.  Not cool.  And, there were murmurs of, “What the f…?”

The film ends with one of those phony redemptions where the uneducated drunkard may be on the mend and goes to find Aimee, who had, smartly, moved on.  Better he should have found the main character from Frances Ha and hooked up with her so they could have lived lives of mediocrity than, tragically, attempting to pull Aimee down to his level.

I give The Spectacular Now a 2 out of 5, but Shailene Woodley gets a 4+ for a star performance that, at times, shows the power of Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Lining Playbook.  She has a great future ahead of her and should be watched by aspiring actresses, who want to learn how to rise above poor material.

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