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I may have been late to the game regarding The Spectacular Now, but I’m making up for it with unbridled enthusiasm. After watching Her, I immediately declared it both my favorite and the best movie of 2013.

But then along came The Spectacular Now.

Bolstered by its great writing, The Spectacular Now is a slow burn character study of Sutter Keely (played in phenomenal fashion by Miles Teller). Miles Teller hasn’t blown up as an actor just yet, but this movie is a prime example of why it’s just a matter of time. Thanks to Miles Teller’s performance, the character of Sutter comes to life as an extremely likable yet alcoholic high school senior.

We all know this person in some form or another. Maybe you even went to high school with someone who has a hint of Sutter—though they probably were more dickish than charming, which is an accomplishment here for Miles Teller since Sutter has several apparent character flaws. Sutter is fun-loving but already seemingly stuck in the addict’s cycle of drowning his emotions with the bottle.

The Spectacular Now opens with Sutter trying to write his personal statement for a college application while he’s casually sipping a beer. A Pabst Blue Ribbon, nonetheless. No one should casually sip that piss water PBR. Despite the blue ribbon, Pabst is meant to be chugged continuously at a shitty party so you can get drunk as fast as possible and forget about all the shitty people you’re getting drunk around.

But this serves as a nice hint as to where Sutter is already at with his alcoholism.

Miles

Lamenting on losing his girlfriend (who wants to be with someone that has a direction in life), we see Sutter attempting to maintain that “king of the world” high that a teenager feels when they think they’re invincible. He drinks and drives and passes out in a stranger’s yard. Remarkably, he hasn’t killed anyone.

Sutter is woken up from his lawn nap by Aimee Finecky (played by Shailene Woodley) early in the morning. They go to the same high school and have even been in the same class before, but of course Sutter doesn’t recognize her at all. Aimee isn’t coming home from a party. She’s not that kind of girl, and this movie makes sure we know that. Instead, she is up at the crack of dawn delivering newspapers for her mom’s route without receiving any real compensation. Responsibility is a bitch—and so is Aimee’s mom.

Since Sutter has no idea where the fuck his car is from that night’s drunken stupor, he hitches a ride helping Aimee deliver newspapers while keeping an eye out for his abandoned ride. Meanwhile, their friendship is building and a romance is budding. You think you know where this is going.

Director James Ponsoldt performs an impressive balancing act in this angst-ridden love story fueled by teenage alcoholism. Although the main character Sutter is drifting through his high school life, the direction of The Spectacular Now does not drift. This movie is not afraid to let scenes breathe and it is not concerned with beating you over the head with an onslaught of jokes or physical comedy.

This is not a typical romantic comedy. And that is a good thing.

Flask Clank

Despite some very slow moments, I was always interested and never bored. The direction that The Spectacular Now goes with the story is notexactly what I imagined, but it helps generate genuine characters (specifically Sutter) that deserve empathy. It also helps that Bob Odenkirk as Dan (Sutter’s boss) and Kyle Chandler as Tommy (Sutter’s dad) are perfect performances in supporting roles.

A minor stumbling block for me with this movie is Shailene Woodley. I don’t understand the love fest.

With the success of Divergent, Shailene Woodley is apparently on the cusp of breaking out and becoming a true movie star. My introduction to Shailene was as Amy on The Secret Life of the American Teenager, which was an awful television show on ABC Family that my wife used to watch. Her acting was atrocious in every scene of that show (her first real gig), and her acting is only incrementally better in this movie.

Fortunately for The Spectacular Now, Shailene Woodley isn’t asked to do too much and the rest of the movie more than makes up for her mediocre performance. All of the individual pieces and the whole make this is an exceedingly enjoyable movie. Thanks in large part to Miles Teller’s impeccable performance, I didn’t want to let this movie or the character of Sutter leave my mind.

As long as I didn’t write this down, the movie stuck in my head.

I am fully onboard now with the career of Miles Teller. I even endured that tepid throwaway comedy with Zac Efron and Michael B. Jordan, and it’s not a surprise that Teller stole the movie. I couldn’t even remember the name of that piece of shit, but it was stupidly named That Awkward Moment.

Hopefully, Teller gets even better with age because he can already toggle spot-on comedic timing with gut-wrenching emotional scenes. There are a few of those sprinkled through The Spectacular Now. As a textured romantic dramedy, The Spectacular Now leaped Her as my favorite and the best movie I saw in 2013. With a handful of viewings under my belt, I’m sure there will be more on the horizon.

I’ve embraced this movie with open arms and you should too.

Embrace That Shit

“The best thing about now, is that there’s another one tomorrow.” – Sutter

5 out of 5 stars

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