Taking arguably the most difficult and under-represented of ages on screen at its heart, James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now achieves wonders, weaving magic into an affecting tale of young life and young love.
High school seniors Sutter Kelly (Miles Teller) and his girlfriend, Cassidy (Brie Larson), are the life of the party; the life of any party. But when Cassidy breaks up with Sutter, for his lack of ambition and his startling emerging problems with alcohol, Sutter’s life takes a wild left-turn. Fast forward through a drunken haze, and he finds himself waking up on a stranger’s lawn, looking up at a face he doesn’t quite recognise. Enter Aimee Finecky (Shailene Woodley).
Aimee, another high schooler in his year, is out doing her mum’s paper route in the early hours of the morning, and she gives Sutter a ride to help him look for his car, unsure of where he left it the night before. Immediately, Sutter can tell that Aimee’s not like the other girls he’s spent time with in his year – she’s out first thing in the morning doing her mum’s job, taking only a small cut for herself; she doesn’t wear make-up; and she reads science-fiction novels and manga. So he takes it upon himself to help her, as he sees it.
He starts taking her to parties, to help her stand up to her mum, and to introduce her to the pleasures of alcohol. And in helping her, he accidentally finds himself letting her in, and what’s more, falling for her. However inevitable it seems from the outset as viewers, it’s still a joy to watch their relationship develop, moving from initial friendship, through awkward flirtation and first kisses, to something infinitely more meaningful.