I’m pretty much an unabashed fan of all teen dramas and comedies in practice. I mean some are better than others, and they usually always follow the same lines and plot beats, but I tend to like watching people freak out about their life and what the hell they are going to do. Basically, growing up, coming-of-age or whatever, it’s been used so much in these films because it’s so easy to milk drama and comedy out of this point in a person’s (teenager) life when so much is changing. Your moving on (or are supposed) to, friends moving away, you’re technically an adult now, you have to start fending for yourself more, you get trusted on more, maybe there’s a girl or guy in your life, who knows, shit is changing.
What I really liked about The Spectacular Now is that it had all those same tenants, but was different enough in its presentation that it didn’t feel old-hat, but not so different enough that it strayed from some of the great formula. Sutter (Miles Teller) is not the most popular guy, but everybody likes him, he’s a jokester and can seem to find some kind of common ground with anyone. In the wake of breaking up with his long-time girlfriend (Brie Larson), he meets up with Aimee (Shailene Woodley) a different girl than ones he’s used to hanging out with, she’s book smart, quieter and more inexperienced in the realms of partying, drinking and sex. Their relationship grows as Sutter remains in pursuit of finding out where his father is and why he left him and his family. Tracking him down, Sutter finds out why he was hidden in the first place, a boozer, someone who walked out on his family, and really has no intent of reconnecting long-term.
Sutter discovers that he’s his own problem, drinking like his father does and did, and thinking he’ll turn out exactly like his father did as well. That’s where I appreciate where The Spectacular Now goes with Sutter and his relationship to Aimee. She is fully committed through thick and thin to Sutter, and never does it go the cliche route where they break-up 2/3’s of the way in the movie, only to reconcile at the end. They have their bumps and bruises, but Aimee is enamored with Sutter and sees the good in him. Sure, it seems like at first that Sutter only takes an interest in Aimee as kind of an “ugly duckling” project to make her better, but I never saw it that way. He genuinely liked her as much throughout the whole movie, but just thought that she was better than him and deserved somebody more stable.
Indeed, though, in the spirit of the title, sure they’re all concerned with what’s next, but it’s also the the experiences we’re having now that need to cherished and remembered. So, much is focused on what’s next that we fail to see what we have for ourselves right now, and how that can make someone much happier than focusing on what has yet to happen. The spectacular now.