Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Spectacular Now (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

The Spectacular Now

Director James Ponsoldt scores a satisfying, if not entirely original, coming of age film with "The Spectacular Now". Ponsoldt who gained traction with his film "Smashed" about a teacher battling alcoholism, again tackles some fermented demons in Sutter, a teenager who masks a lot by nipping at a flask. Sutter is the life of the party, charming his fellow classmates by reaching for the spontaneity of life.

When Sutter (Miles Teller) passes out on a strangers lawn, he is discovered by the shy and quirky Amy (Shailene Woodley). Woodley, who gave a facile outing in "The Decendants", gives another solid performance here. Both Woodley and Teller give the story a lively charisma and their romantic infectious spirit keep the story rolling. You won't meet a character quite so lively as Sutter, but his carnival smiles cloak his deep lack of self esteem. He is a bit like Ferris Bueller with a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome. There are some apprehensive first love scenes which speak a bit about the fear of the body and intimacy and the tension lies in the fact that Sutter is a cad, out of a fear of rejection. Through it all Amy is warm hearted and vivacious, taking most things in stride, until Sutter's demons are manifest. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are utterly convincing and Sutter has such a charge of amorality, at times, that is part festive and part Dionysian in the dark sense that he keeps us guessing.

There are fine performances given by Jennifer Jason Leigh as Sutter's mom and Kyle Chandler as a boozy and tepid father who pines for Key West and strives to perpetuate the illusion that everybody likes him.

The best part of "The Spectacular Now" is its abrupt art-house conclusion which gives a sense of volatility to its characters reminiscent of a junior version of "The Graduate" and "Leaving Las Vegas"

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