Now, whether you believe in that tale or not, it perfectly describes who Sutter Keely is going to be. When Sutter is all grown, tending bar with his old man, wondering where all his buddies went. Wondering what happened to that one girl he used to love. This is utter speculation on my part, as The Spectacular Now only captures Sutter (Miles Teller) for a few months of his life as a high school senior, but that is certainly where he’s headed. A pathetic drunk, clinging to the best of times, wondering What If.
But hell, truth be told, when we meet Sutter, he’s not that much different than how I envision him being in that grand tale of mine. Sutter is the life of it all, the class clown, the first one in the pool at the otherwise chill house party, the loudest guy in the room; Sutter is that guy, and he absolutely loves being that guy.
But then, by chance, he meets Aimee (Shailene Woodley). Aimee Finecky, as it were, because leave it to Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber (the gifted authors of (500) Days of Summer) to pen such a perfect name for the girl next door. Anyway, Aimee is different. She doesn’t party, she doesn’t drink, she doesn’t sleep around or thrive on attention. She minds her own business, doesn’t wear make up, does well in school, breezes on by.
Like conflicting sides of a magnet, Sutter and Aimee are inexplicably drawn to one another in a way director James Ponsoldt and his writers bring to life organically. Their romance is slow, tender, and actually quite remarkable. If nothing else, this is what I want to make absolutely clear about The Spectacular Now: it portrays teenage romance realistically, in all its patience, awkwardness, false confidence, and confusion. It’s one of the most honest teen romances I’ve seen, and that is certainly reason enough to see it.
But there are more. Plenty more. Miles Teller is a young actor I first noticed in 2010’s Rabbit Hole. In that film, he played an innocent kid shattered by accidentally running over a little boy. And although his innocence has matured in The Spectacular Now, Teller still plays the role of a teenager barely keeping it together to utter perfection. You’re not going to like a lot of what Sutter does, and that’s okay. There’s always hope on the other side.
But, for those who saw Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, it may not come as a surprise that the best thing about The Spectacular Now is a little powerhouse named Shailene Woodley. I loved her fierce, stubborn work in Payne’s film, but her Aimee is a stunning, unique creature. I can’t recall another young actor playing a young person in quite the way Woodley does here. There simply aren’t enough adjectives to articulate everything she gets right. Although Aimee frustrated me to no end, I was compelled to follow her wherever Woodley and Ponsoldt saw fit.
It wasn’t my intention to offend anyone with that tall tale I told in the beginning of this review. But the time I shared with The Spectacular Now was time spent on that notion of a jock stuck in his glory days. I saw the film a week ago, and I haven’t been able to shake that feeling. That feeling of a lost Sutter, wondering What If. I can only hope that I’m wrong. A-