The Spectacular Now: A Movie Review

It starts as any high school-age film does, popular boy and popular girl are the inseparable party starters until one day, the popular girl has a change of heart, leaving the boy bewildered but not without hope. What comes next? Of course he finds himself befriending nerdy unpopular girl in his moment of need! As I said, it starts out this way.

As the audience begins to fill out the plot with what they have come to expect from typical high school romance stories, the heartfelt and unapologetic writing first tasted in 500 Days of Summer begins to dash audience members’ hopes for a “feel good” movie. Don’t despair, I would have been disappointed if all it had amounted to was being an artsy-fartsy version of She’s All That.

Adapted from Tim Tharp’s novel of the same title, the film brings audience members back to their teenage years with raw, honest, and sometimes funny moments. As audience members, we are confronted by our own teenage heart-broken or heart-breaker selves. As an adult you may find any of the characters’ decisions as painful and stupid. But as an adult, you are also faced with the fact that yes, your decisions were narrow and blind once upon a time too. For those teenagers who may be watching this film, there are lessons to be learned.

Sutter (male protagonist a.k.a. popular boy) does more than dabble in underage drinking. His wits are sharp as a tack, which allows him to pay endearing lip service in just about any circumstance leaving the audience wondering if he’s only a charmer or truly charming. Aimee is our beloved caterpillar turned butterfly. She’s the comic-book reading, studious, good girl whose bravery and love catapults many of the major plot points. Cassidy, on the other hand, may appear as the story’s antagonist but in the words of Regina Spektor, Cassidy is the hero of her own story and doesn’t need to be saved. The scene between Cassidy and Sutter in her bedroom after the breakup really turns on the waterworks for anyone who had to break their own heart for their own good.

Almost everyone in Sutter’s life poses as an imminent antagonist, at least to Sutter, threatening whom he believes he is to the core. However Sutter says it himself, “There’s two sides to every story.” The film slowly unravels each of these sides until finally Sutter is forced to confront his own demons and decide whether he too is going to save himself.

The responsibility of choice is on his shoulders and no one else is to blame for the future he chooses.