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Rated 3.02 stars
by 189 people

ReelTalk Movie Reviews
by Diana Saenger

There are many teen-related movies these days about everything from raucous college parties to vampires. The Spectacular Now aims for a more lasting impression, one that will have both adults and mature teens walking away feeling they spent their money well.

Screenwriters Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (500 Days of Summer) have adapted Tim Thorp’s novel into a compelling film about the journey of two teens, Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee (Shailene Woodley.)

Outwardly, Sutter is the one who always seems to have it all. Maybe it’s because his cup is usually filled with alcohol or just that he’s a good actor as the life of the party. Inwardly, there’s a rumbling volcano of family desperation and anger waiting to explode.

When Sutter’s girlfriend Cassidy (Brie Larson) finds life more interesting with the high school quarterback, Sutter is left adrift. He puts on a good face to show he’s okay with it, but clearly he is not. Always wanting to make others feel good, Sutter’s eye of good intention is always wandering, and soon he becomes intrigued by a student who very much sticks to herself.

Aimee is not a nerd or in any way a misfit. She’s just a young girl walking to her own beat who wants to do well in school so she can change her life. When Sutter wakes up on Aimee’s lawn one morning after an obviously drunken night, it’s Aimee who rescues him and invites him to help her with her paper route.

Sutter slowly becomes infatuated with Aimee; however, she needs a little time before she responds to his attention. She can see how he looks at Cassidy when they are in the same space at school.

Jennifer Jason Leigh handles the role of Sutter’s mom quite well. Kyle Chandler as Sutter’s dad is exceptionally steely and distressing when Sutter finally confronts him.

Teller (Footloose, Rabbit Hole) and Woodley (The Descendants) both offer excellent portrayals of these characters. It’s clear Sutter has no plan of where he’s going or how to appease his anger with his mother over his missing father. Teller taps into every emotion as if he’s lived this scenario. He’s spot-on with the teen who ambles through the day at school like he’s on top of everything with a smile and false easiness. Yet when Sutter is alone, Teller nails those decisive moments of gravity when Sutter could easily become won over by the darkness.

Woodley, whose resume is filled with TV work, wowed audiences and earned several critics’ awards for her cantankerous role as George Clooney’s daughter in The Descendants. At home Aimee is also in a negative place. Woodley captures this with every gaze into Aimee’s eyes. She doesn’t quite know how to take Sutter’s attention. She’s never had a boyfriend and isn’t quite sure that Sutter really likes her and not using her to make Cassidy jealous. Woodley’s calm demeanor through the film renders a fascinating character who blooms right before our eyes.

Both teens need saving, but are they the right ones to save each other? The Spectacular Now emphasizes humor and tenderness – and ends up as one of the top films so far this year.

(Released by A24 films and rated “R” for alcohol use, language and some sexuality.)

Review also posted at

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